“Non, je ne regrette rien”

Edith Piaf sang “Non, je ne regrette rien” (No, I regret nothing at all, or No, I’m not sorry for anything) with passion, as a personal statement of courage and faith in her future. She sang it, not in desperation, but as an affirmation of hope, of courage and life. The final line she sang is: “Je repars à zero” (I’m starting again from zero).

I have always loved this song, stirred by the conviction and strength with which Piaf sings.  Circumstances, of our own making or out of our control, too easily allow us to  become mired in guilt, regret, and self pity.  Yet Piaf rose above her tragedies. At the time when Piaf performed this song her health was rapidly failing.  She had gained enormous fame, even infamy, and had many detractors who were highly critical of her lifestyle. Piaf had had a tragic childhood, and after a serious injury had became addicted to alcohol and morphine.  She had been divorced, had lovers, remarried. If you listen to the song in the context of Piaf’s life, the words come to acquire a new dimension of meaning. They become her affirmation of the way in which she lived her life, embracing her choices, mistakes, and whatever life threw at her, good and bad.

No, No Regrets

No! No regrets

No! I will have no regrets

All the things

That went wrong

For at last I have learned to be strong

No! No regrets

No! I will have no regrets

For the grief doesn’t last

It is gone

I’ve forgotten the past

And the memories I had

I no longer desire

Both the good and the bad

I have flung in a fire

All of us make mistakes. Some of us dwell on those events, allowing the regret and the remorse to taint our lives forever. Guilt is destructive, but it takes courage to move on. Someone said “Owning your story is hard, but not as hard as spending your life running from it.”

As a mother I know I have made mistakes nurturing my children. Been impatient, shouted instead of listening, said the wrong thing that has hurt rather than healed, been overwhelmed by tiredness and made poor decisions. As a wife I have put my interests before those of my husband. As a friend I have carelessly let time pass and overlooked opportunities to support. But every day is a new opportunity to start again.

When I injured my spinal cord I spent months in hospital. I was unable to celebrate my sons’ birthday. I was unable to hug my sons and daughter when they were sad or needed a mother’s love. And when I returned home I used all my energy to look after myself, leaving my family to muddle on as best they could. I chose to go skiing that day when I broke my back. It was my choice that impacted on everyone around me. Yet if I had let that guilt consume me, I would have taken even more from them. Sure, I wish  sometimes that things had been different. I’m sure my family wishes that things had been different too. I hope they don’t resent my choices too much. Because that resentment will eat them up.

I don’t resent the decisions made by others that day – the ski instructor who was with me, the manager of the ski field who opened the field in atrocious conditions. I accept the choices I made then, and every day I make new choices … to exercise or not, to talk to friends or not, to write or not, to do something special for someone or not.

Every day is a new day, an opportunity for a new beginning, faith in the future.  Be strong; move forward; have no regrets.

“Je ne regrette rien”

Edith Piaf

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