Those are the easy tasks. Follow the rules and you’ll improve your chances of living to see whether Hilary Clinton runs against Jeb Bush or Chris Christie in 2016.
The more challenging regret-avoidance goals are those related to how you live your life, relate to others, spend your time.
I regret not only some of my meddling on my children’s behalf, but also having kept a secret.
I cannot think of a single secret I have kept from my children, except for one. The secret I am about to reveal, I kept from Eliza, my 29-year-old daughter for 15 years, until last week.
For months I’ve been thinking about telling her, afraid what her reaction would be. After all, she did not need to know that I orchestrated for her to have a counselor and teacher, whom—for many, many years—my daughter has grumbled about as her worst school experience ever.
It began the summer my ex and I decided to separate. Eliza was going into ninth grade and there was this counselor Ms. Y that everyone raved about. I knew it was going to be a tough year for Eliza.
So, while Eliza was at sleepaway camp (and unaware that in a couple of weeks her life would forever change by her parents’ inability to get along), I arranged for Ms. Y to be Eliza’s counselor, which meant Ms. Y would also—fittingly—be my daughter’s drama teacher.
Years passed, pages flying off the calendar like in a movie. Not a season went by without some mention of how awful it had been to have had to deal with Ms. Y.
It plagued me to be keeping this secret from my daughter, because I knew from the self-help aisle at Barnes & Noble, which the ex and I delved into during our year of trying to patch up our marriage, that secrets and lies are poison for families.
Still, I told myself that this secret was not the biggest deal in the world, all the while worrying that I should fess up to my role. After all, for years she coped with the knowledge that I had phoned her 2nd-grade school—from Hong Kong where we were living during her kindergarten and first-grade years—to request Ms. R, the teacher my calling around had shown to be the best.
As it turned out, during Eliza’s 2nd-grade year, Ms. R’s mother was dying and Ms. R became a very difficult woman, providing Eliza with her first hated teacher experience, compliments of Mom.
Yesterday, Eliza and I were sitting at a table in the triangle that divides Ninth Avenue at 14th St. in the Big Apple, eating sesame-crusted tuna.
And I just said it, “I have no secrets from my children, but I have one secret I have kept from you.”
Her big, round, hazel eyes grew bigger and rounder. This is a good thing, I thought, she is expecting something awful, probably worse than the Ms. Y maneuver.
I stumbled on my words as I explained to Eliza how she had come to be a student of Ms. Y. “Oh, Mom,” she said, her eyes now smiling, “I thought you were going to tell me I have another sibling somewhere.”
She added, “I’m actually glad I had Ms. Y, because otherwise I might not be who I am today. Having to deal with her built character.”
I love Eliza’s upbeat way of looking at historical woes. As for me, I have no more secrets and I am crossing the Ms. Y regret off my list. As for meddling, I’m still working on that.
I would love to hear from you in the comments about your Secrets, Meddling, Regrets!
The perfect Valentine’s Day gift for worrywarts or anyone who would enjoy a “neurotic, hilarious, poignant” deeply personal memoir:
“Susan Orlins is America’s funniest neurotic since Woody Allen. Just be careful you don’t crack a rib reading Confessions of a Worrywart.”
–PATRICIA VOLK, author of Stuffed
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, poignant, beautifully written January 21, 2013