I never used to believe in regret. I guess I really didn’t have something to regret then.
I used to say, “Take responsibility for where you were. Don’t forget your circumstances, who you were and where you were at the time.”
That was enough for me.
But lately I have been experiencing some serious regret, regret for some stupid things I did. It is not a good feeling, especially if you have to pay a high price for actions you didn’t think through all the way.
“OH MY GOD, Ms., I never ever should have gotten into that car,” one of the girls in my Juvie group said.
I asked them what they could have done differently that would have changed the outcome of their situation.
“If I didn’t get into that car, everything would have been different, Ms.”
“That car was my downfall. Really, I shouldn’t have gotten in the car.”
“Okay! Okay!!” yells one of the other girls.
“Enough with the fucking car! We get it. You shouldn’t have gotten in the car.”
“Hold on,” I say. “Don’t get mad. Let’s listen to her. Better yet, let’s act it out.”
We usually take a situation that happened to one of the girls and then act out what could happen that is the negative and what should happen that is the positive.
We pull together two chairs to represent the front seat of the car and behind them we put another two chairs for the back seat. I have a steering wheel prop. I give it to one of the girls.
“Let’s act out what happened and what should have happened.”
“No,” she says. “I don’t want to act out what happened. I just want to act out what I should have done.”
She is adamant.
“I just want to do the fix it scene, Ms.”
“Okay,” I say.
One girl is at the wheel. There are two more people in the car with her. They pretend to drive. They are giggling and the one motions to turn on the music. The other one pretends to be the music. It is a great scene.
They stop to pick up the girl.
“Get in the car,” they tell her.
“Come on! Get in!” They pretend to be gang members and push her to get into the car.
She says, “No, I will not. I don’t want to go with you, thanks. I have other things I am doing. I am not getting in the car.”
“Good choice,” I say. “Good words, too.”
And then she loses it a little and starts to yell.
“I will not get into that car, because, if I do, it will ruin my life.
I will not get into that car, because terrible things are going to happen.”
Now she is screaming
I say, “Cut.”
The girls in the car don’t move.
I walk over to her. She is sitting on the floor and is crying.
“Come,” I say. “Come.” I take her hand.
She gets up and I have her sit next to me.
“Come,” I tell the other girls.
We sit in a circle.
“Tell us,” I ask.
She tells the story.
It is not a good one. It is a really bad, bad, BAD one.
“I never should have gotten into the car.”
I respond, “We all have cars we shouldn’t have gotten into.”
She looks at me.
“OMG, Sweetie, believe me! I have driven miles in cars I had no business being in.”
“I know. But here is the deal. You got into the car. You cannot change that.”
I think to myself the problem with regret is that you really can't do anything about it. It is an emotion that holds in it so much sorrow. Learning from it is important, but really the lesson is to coexist with something you did that you wish you hadn't done, because you cannot go back in time. You cannot undo what you did. You just have to live with it, as hard as that is.
I look at this girl. I look at all of them.
How do I help them coexist with their past?
I think of my days as a facilitator in Israel doing peace work with Arabs and Jews, trying to negotiate history and see it in a new light.
“Let’s negotiate the past,” I say.
I could have been speaking French.
“Hear me out. Think about something you did that was wrong.
Why did you do that?
What was in that car that made you get in?
Make sure you see yourself and the situation clearly so it never happens again.”
“Ms., I promise it will never happen again.”
“I hope so,” I say.
But, alas, I have been here long enough and watched these girls do it again and again to be wary of her promise.
“What else can we do?” I ask.
“Make sure other people don’t get into the fucking car,” one says.
“Good,” I say.
“You know, Ms., sometimes that bad car might take us right to the place we have to be.”
“That’s fucked up,” one says back. ”No,” I say, “that is reality.” ”We can only learn from the past. We can only be better today because of the stupid stuff we did yesterday.” ”What about the stupid shit we do today?” ”That will make us smarter tomorrow,” I say.
“What do you do with the hurt, Ms.?”
“Nothing,” I say. “You live with it. You feel it.”
“And that’s it?” she asks me.
“My insides hurt,” she says.
“I know,” I say.
And MY insides hurt from her hurting.
She looks at me waiting for me to give her a wise answer.
“Sometimes we hurt and there is nothing to do but wait until it hurts less.”
“Well, that sucks!” she says.
“I know, but at least here you can talk about it. You can act it out. You can let the pain out, and I hope that will make you feel a little better.”
“Ms. It’s like you are the pain catcher. LOL! You take our pain and then what do YOU do with it?”
“I learn,” I say.
“I learn so much.”
On my drive home I dictate this blog to my phone and I think.
Actually I take the pain, theirs and mine, and I write this blog.
I take the pain and teach and preach so that maybe together all of us can take better care. And hopefully make an effort to ease the pain.