Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Conquering Relentless Regret: Ditch the 'If Onlys'

Regret involves a trip back in time to an action, an event, or a decision that had life-altering and unwanted consequences. Each of us has our share of regrets. How we think about our individual regrets will either condemn or redeem us. What I’m about to share was a regret that I allowed to torture me for years.

After my biopsy, there was a six-week waiting time to heal before my prostate surgery. I spent most of those six weeks wondering whether I was going to live long enough to see the beginning of a new year. I went on a prostate cancer forum and posed the following: “To Vacation or Not to Vacation, that is the question.” I considered taking time off from work in order to enjoy a romantic vacation with my wife.

A man wrote back suggesting that I’d be too anxious to enjoy my vacation. He suggested I postpone the romantic vacation until after my surgery. This made perfect sense, so I followed his advice.

The trip we took after my surgery was awful. I was suffering from urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. I was leaking urine so badly that I was changing my diaper 15 times a day. I was so depressed about the quality of my life, I spent the majority our “romantic vacation” wishing I’d died during surgery. I didn’t have a single romantic thought, or deed, occur during our entire time away.

I began experiencing a profound loss and regret that I missed the opportunity to enjoy a romantic vacation with my wife when all of my body parts were functioning properly. Those days were gone forever.

For the next four years, I kicked myself at least once a day, sometimes more. The phrase “if only” became my mantra. The phrase “if only” bound me to the past in a destructive way. There was no opportunity for a re-do. My sex life as I knew it was gone, and it wasn’t coming back.

There was no way to redeem what I’d lost. I made a stupid, foolish, selfish, decision that I’d have to live with for the rest of my life. I tortured myself day after day, week after week, and year after year. This type of condemning and harsh look backward is the kind of unhealthy regret that can rob you of your capacity to enjoy life in the moment.
In the movie Oliver, a thief named Fagin sings a song entitled "Reviewing the Situation," in which he reviews his life. Here are few verses from that song:
Can a fellow be a villain all his life?
All the trials and tribulations!
Better settle down and get myself a wife.

As the song goes on, he humorously reviews the consequences of his past, present and future decisions. Asking yourself healthy questions is the starting point to redeem your regret. In my situation, I asked myself what type of romantic trips, experiences and memories do I want to create now.

I came to realize that now is the only time we can redeem our “if onlys.” Getting stuck in the past, or wishing for a different future, is a total waste of time and energy.
My wife and I created many positive romantic memories before and after my penile implant surgery. Today I’m living without regrets; so can you.

If you’ve conquered one of your “if onlys” please share how you did it.
Note: This article appeared in Prostate Cancer News Today 

Rick Redner and his wife Brenda Redner wrote two award winning books. The first:
provides men and couples with information and support before, during and after prostate surgery.

Their second book was written for couples living with!erectile dysfunction. After living with erectile dysfunction for four years, Rick chose penile implant surgery. The couple share how implant surgery changed their lives and relationship.
The title of their book is:

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