Regret. It’s part of the human condition. As long as we only have 24 hours in our days, we have to choose, and whenever we choose, we do one thing and not another. Right now, I feel a lot of regret.
In three days, I will leave to begin my training for deployment. I had so many plans of things to do with my children - hikes, camp-outs, golfing, biking, family trips… the days just slipped away with all the preparation and details. Now it’s gone. Now all my plans will have to be about what I’ll do when I return.
We never get to do everything we want to in this life, because it’s impossible. But that doesn't make the feelings go away. Fortunately, it seems my family doesn't share my feeling of regret, but that’s probably because they aren’t going anywhere. Their lives are not being dramatically changed, except by my absence. They still will be able to do most of the things they enjoy while I am gone.
What did I do instead? I spent most of my time getting financial affairs in order, getting household repairs done, taking care of the myriad things that we normally put off until later because we can. I couldn’t put them off any longer, because the family depends on the furnace working properly, the plumbing being fixed, etc. These things robbed me of the family time I wanted.
I also spent some time getting our computers to be able to talk to each other over the Internet. Long distance calls from Afghanistan are quite expensive, I hear, so being able to use Internet technology could both save money and bring more immediacy to family conversations by using video. (Here comes George Jetson!)
I’ll be home for Christmas, but I’ll be training in the meantime. I’ve already started referring the children to Mom for decisions, telling them to get used to it since I won’t be around soon.
While the media has made much of what might happen since the last election, for the average Soldier like I will soon be, the changes will be long in coming, and not soon enough for many of them. I will not comment on any politics, since I feel it would be inappropriate for a Soldier, but I believe changes in strategies and scenarios will be coming. Meanwhile, I will have a job to do.
I have begun thinking positively about getting back home when my time is up. Thinking a lot about the risks and dangers will not make them go away, and it’s unhealthy for me psychologically, so I am choosing to remain optimistic. While I regret not having more time to spend with my family, I do not regret having to go. In fact, I want to go and get it over with, and get the job done.
So I will push aside the regrets, and focus on the future. There will be time enough to make up for what I have missed when I return. And now that is what I focus on.
The famous French singer Edith Piaff had a song, “Je ne regret rien.” (“I regret nothing.”) While I can’t echo her feelings, I do understand the wisdom of them. Regret changes nothing. So rather than getting down about what I didn’t accomplish, I now make plans for how I will make up for that when I come back home, safe and sound. Then, we’ll celebrate, and I’ll make sure we do all those things I didn’t have time to do before leaving!
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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and
Executive Director of CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here. God and Science (Hypertext Edition,
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion: Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).
Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.