The effects and symptoms of negative experiences, depression and burnout can linger long after one has emerged, even if one’s life is full of dancing, singing, love, improvisation, new friends, colleagues and experiences..; self-deprecating/defeating responses and expectations can harden into habit, etching themselves into your actions and reactions like lines on a face, and can threaten sureness of stride, quaver of voice, possibly undermine health and potential. Old mistakes can loop in the mind in haunting halting repetition.
I have thought for a long time about how I could remove my regrets, which I define as past actions and experiences which you cannot alter, but still somehow suffer from (a retentive memory can in these cases be hindrance rather then help to life, goldfish memories maybe more conducive to peaceful minds) .. I thought about apologising, sending paper airplanes, messages in bottles, paper boats.. one night – and I don’t know the trigger – I thought: “I’ll sail all my regrets on the river Thames” .. I imagined them floating off into the sunset to find some future more useful existence perhaps to be transformed into new possibilities, beginnings etc..
In primary school we were taught to make little Viking Ships from matchboxes and cocktail sticks (who needs art school huh?.. yet that’s one of my regrets nonetheless..) and something about these miniature invasions in my home town felt suitable (and for some reason we’ve 100s of matchboxes and cocktail sticks at home) so.. I made my first “adult” Viking ship and I liked it and so I made another.. at this point thinking I’d make examples of all of the craft that have invaded these shores.. but I never got beyond the Normans and Vikings..
I then proceeded to write down my regrets..
and thus to discover that I had very more than a few..I tried to excavate all niggling unresolved doubts or dramas.. however large or small.. that lingered even if fleetingly in the small hours.
The first thing that I noticed, on seeing this list I’d made laid out in front of me, was that I could not sincerely regret a single moment, that each happening was an element, which, when totaled with all the other elements, made up my life.. if any single one of these things had or had not happened I have no way of knowing what would have or would not have happened instead.. therefore, it became very clear what had not when folk pointed it out to me previously, that I was regretting only fantasy, the what might have been; what really would have happened if what did happen had or hadn’t happened is utterly, totally and entirely unknowable, is non-existent, is nothing..
therefore.. there is literally nothing to regret!
Then I began to build my little ships..
I decided to stage this ritual near St. Mary’s Rotherhithe (and Sands films and the Brunel museum), which I have felt attached to ever since I used to wonder what they were from my houseboat near Tower Bridge.. This is also close to a major embarkation point for the Mayflower Ship (and resting place for it’s captain) which took the “pilgrim fathers” off to settle in what became the U.S.A.. ( to continue the theme of invasion)..
Everyone has been very supportive of this project each step of the way, sweet words from the many folks at home about my childish boat-building efforts, Ella and her daughter Tigger joining in and making boats of their own, my friend Tina expressing her admiration for the project and desire to document it, my friend Marina (who I always meet on beaches) electing to join, to make her own boat and to chant a strong mantra throughout, my cousin Alex showed up in the pub after and my therapist Bernadette a massive cheerleader throughout who I appropriately had an appointment with just before I cycled to Rotherhithe on the day of the flotilla. On the way I realised that I was hungry so called ahead to the Mayflower pub and ordered a celebratory Steak and Chips. The kitchen was about to close so I asked them to wait to order it till the last possible moment and have it waiting for my arrival.. I raced along the river bank (will chatting to Babs on the phone at the same time..) It was pretty much the first hot day we’d had all year so it really felt like a celebration all round and just fantastic to arrive to..
I think that we all imagined a more dramatic flotilla.. but as Marina said “it’s still a lovely image”.. the little boats broke up on the waves almost upon impact.. the ones with 3 sails lasting a little longer but essentially my little regrets hand-written into the sails were mostly pathetically beached while their more sturdy craft rolled around and away to who knows where. We performed the action just after high tide so presumably the debris will just be swept away on the next one.. the ease at their demolition more positive than otherwise as it showed how flimsy and inconsequential these regrets truly were..
The very next morning I awoke and my normal waking thoughts of “what do I need to worry about?” “what did I do wrong?” was soon superceded by a genuine feeling of relief “I threw away my worries.. they have gone..” I was actually surprised at how very effective my ruse had been. The morning after that an old regret re-surfaced almost immediately to be quashed by a list of all the wonderful things and people that I probably would not have been encountered if I had pursued that particular (fantasy) course.. Job done I reckon.. Live and Learn XXX