After all the bellyaching, hopefully you'll take a big, deep breath and look at it again. What do you see now, dearheart? If you were me, you would see Ego staining every bit of regretful moment you cling to. You would be embarrassed by the way you behaved, and by the disgracefulness and vulnerability that you allowed other people to see. You might begin to compose letters in your head to manipulate your witnesses into forgetting the version of yourself that you presented so that they may know the "real you," whatever that means. You want to repair the damage by explaining it all away- "it wasn't really me! I'm not that crazy! I was just having a crazy moment!"- and also fear that trying to repair it will only make it worse.
With each mindful inhale you bring your attention back to the bigger picture and to an observation of the Ego doing its best work. You see that this whole elaborate show is really meant to attempt control in a world that feels like such a ridiculous mess. You see how self-indulgent this regret is, how totally Ego-soaked and conveniently distractionary. In the face of taking steps to create an adult life, you opt to cling to a past that you know very well is gone. And the closer you come to surrendering, to deeply letting go of illusory control, the louder your Ego kicks and screams.
Gently, ever so sweetly, with kid gloves even, you pick your Ego up, cradle it in your arms and assure it and yourself:
I love you.
I will never leave you.
I will always take care of you.
We are grown now. We don't have to grasp and beg, or be in control of everyone and everything around us to get our needs met. There is much we can do all on our own. The real, big truth is that control is a Mind-Ego construct designed to help us feel safe. We are children with our finger in the crack in the dam, so naive if we think that we can hold back the ensuing flood. We are in control of precious few things. Really, all we can control, all we have a right to control, are our own actions and reactions. Anything outside of us has its own will to assert on itself.
If regret has any function, let it be to help us take something away from difficult moments when we were not at our best. No excuses, no clinging and no attempts at manipulation or control. Allow regret be a temporary stop over between who we were and who we can become. Then allow yourself to arrive fully and presently to today, to a vibrant experience of your miraculous body in this moment. Become someone new today, someone who knows better because you've been there, done that, regretted it and became a better person for it. And, for goodness sakes, try to remember where you've been and what happened there. A compassionate, realistic memory of our history helps keep the past stumbles out of our present and future.
Regret is not a place to linger, playing pretend that you are doing something productive or atoning for your wrongs. Don't forget but don't dwell. Let the past teach the lessons and let it go.