Memory and Regret

One thing I have tried very hard to do in my young adult life is to lie with­out regret. Whether I have been suc­cess­ful at this is a mat­ter for debate, of course, but the the­o­ry has been in place. I can­not change any­thing about my lived life up to this point. I can change what I feel about my past, I can change what I learn from those expe­ri­ences, but noth­ing I do can ever alter the expe­ri­ences them­selves. There­fore (my rea­son­ing goes) any ener­gy — emo­tion­al, spir­i­tu­al, psy­chic, or oth­er­wise — expend­ed on feel­ings of regret over choic­es made is that much ener­gy wast­ed; it can do noth­ing but make my cur­rent lived expe­ri­ence worse.

But it is one thing to stick to this kind of phi­los­o­phy when one is in a live-for-the-now mode; in the process of try­ing to write a mem­oir, how­ev­er, one is dwelling in the past, and dwelling upon all the good and ill aspects there­of. How is one to avoid regret in such an exer­cise? Is it pos­si­ble, or is it even advis­able? Per­haps regret is an impor­tant ingre­di­ent in the mem­oir recipe?

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