Thursday, January 6, 2011

Resolutions, Oui. Regrets, Non.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
- Charles Dickens (A Tale of Two Cities)

What a masterpiece of an opening sentence.

Novels become masterpieces because they tap into a universal feeling which endures through the ages. The brilliance of this first sentence of this particular masterpiece is simply this; it is merely a statement of fact with no judgment attached to it, no angst, no despair. It simply is.

Yes, Dickens knew how to write a sentence. And as often as we’ve heard the first few words of this sentence, the rest of the sentence is equally profound:

“…it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

There could be no more apt description of the year to which I just said goodbye. From what I’ve heard, my ‘bipolar year’ was not rare. Others experienced extreme hardship and heartache interspersed with overwhelming happiness and good fortune, too. It must be a common condition, one which has endured through the ages. Yes, I’m sure it is. The year that passed simply is. We all did our best, whether we were wealthy or poor, employed or unemployed, Democrat or Republican, Christian or Muslim, loved or not. Let’s follow Dickens’ example, and look back on it without judgment, angst, or despair. The year that passed has simply passed. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

The year 2011 lies before us as bright and shiny as a newly minted penny. As we go about making and attempting to keep our earnest and well-meaning New Year’s resolutions, I suggest we do so with the knowledge that none of us can possibly know what will come in the days ahead. If surprises (good or bad) come our way, let us acknowledge them and move on without regret or self recrimination. It’s okay. We’re all doing the best we can.

“Je ne regrette rien.” I regret nothing. This song was recorded by Edith Piaf, whom the French nicknamed “The Sparrow.” What a life she led..abandoned by her street circus parents, looked after briefly by her grandmother but raised mostly by prostitutes in a French brothel, a mother at age 17 to a daughter who would die of meningitis at the age of two, a member of the French resistance in WWII, and married three times. Most people with that bio would speak of many regrets. Not The Sparrow. She knew that she had done her best, and she lived her life with no self-pity and, certainly, no regrets.

I became fascinated with Piaf when I was a little girl. My grandmother owned a small enameled music box that played “La Vie en Rose,” Piaf’s signature song, and I would play it ad nauseum. I loved that song, but when I heard her sing “Non, Je ne Regrette Rien,” I fell in love with her. She recorded this song shortly before her death at age 47 in order to try to avoid bankruptcy. Her clear, strong voice, her impassioned phrasing, and her steady cadence say it all. You can find the translation easily enough online, but I think it's fairly self-explanatory..."No, I regret nothing."

Be gentle with yourself today and release your regrets.


  1. Attitude is everything. I used to think it was good health but I have clients with terrible health problems but great attitudes. They deal with it. They are magnificent.

    About 2011: Oh yeah.

    I read A Tale of Two Cities when I first visited Paris. Such a powerful story and especially in that setting.

    Onwards & upwards!

  2. Completely agree, Reya. Conversely, I know many people who are perfectly healthy and perfectly miserable at the same time. Attitude IS everything.

    Readng the novel while in Paris is awesome to have the landmarks, streets,and monuments right in front of you!

  3. Muy bueno, señora bonita. ¡Bien dicho!

  4. Muchas gracias, mi amigo!

    My translator is now enabled in you honor!

  5. Jo, greatly enjoyed reading this post.

  6. Thanks, Jan...that makes my heart smile.

  7. What a perfect post for me today. No judgements. From today on I have a new and resolved strength to live each day and look at the bright and golden moments I have before me.

    This post also makes my heart smile and what a great book! So kmuch love<3

  8. You have so many bright and golden moments ahead, Vicki. Embrace them, each delicious one! Much love back.

  9. As Vicki said this is a perfect post for beginning a new year. Our successes we celebrate and from our failures we learn... no regrets as it is a waste of time. Move forward, embrace the moment, love & live life.
    Happy new year.

  10. Oh, I forgot to mention how much I love the voice of Edith Piaf. She is an inspiration.

  11. "Move forward, embrace the moment, love & live life." PERFECT.

    Many thanks for your comments, Lizzy. I'm adding this quote to my favorites.

  12. Jojey Bigogey, our Yankee Doodle Mary--may I offer one humble observation? I'm not sure that we've all done our best. Mine for instance, has been a mediocre performance. I wish I could say that each year from now hence will hold some example of my improvement, but if I were to look back and wonder, am I better at 57 than say when I was 12, does the math establish that any resolutions have proven their weight?

    But as a country, which world wide has come to be known as the leader of other great nations, we would surely be held in less esteem by poor people around the world who seem to be suffering more. By a planet which more and more resembles an organ or an organism by our extended consciousness and intelligence, surely our species would be held in some contempt for our combined performance.

    No, I say we haven't done our best. But I think we can aspire to do better. For instance if all of us would think and act more like you, we would see marked improvement as a class and culture.

  13. Thanks for your observations, Dub. I'm very certain that you, for one, did your best in 2010. I've never known another man to live with more intent toward good than you.

    Perfection is unattainable. Try to be as gentle with yourself as you are with others and you'll see my point.

    This is a bad day for me to consider the ethos of our country as a whole and whether it has done its best. All any one of us can do is try to turn the tide in our own hearts away from hate and toward love, and thereby collectively heal the spirit of America, which suffers so greatly today.


Your visit makes my heart smile. Thank you.