I remember it like it was yesterday. The initial shock at what I saw, and the horrific realization as all the pieces started to click into place, sending me through the various stages of panic: first the pins-and-needles tingling in my fingers and toes as adrenaline shot through my veins.
Then the questions I’d ask myself about what I was seeing before me.
And what it meant.
Then the inevitable, “no, no, no… God no.”
But, alas… yes.
I gagged a little and wiped my mouth, swallowing down the disgust welling up inside me.
I had switched on the bathroom light moments before and was horrified to see that my son hadn’t flushed the toilet after his morning poo.
Rabbit pellet-sized poop balls gathered in a cute little pile at the bottom of the toilet, while a few bigger - but apparently less dense ones - bobbed on the top of the water like a couple of happy malted milk balls taking a swim in the community pool.
One hand flew to my mouth, and the other reached over to flush the toilet as I shuffled through the events of that day.
All those mundane events that led to that very moment.
The morning rush of getting my son to school with enough time to make it back for a conference call.
The shouting of insults at my dog for slurp, slurp, slurping as he took a long drink of… toilet water.
The mouth kiss I gave him later, forgetting how only an hour or so earlier I’d shouted at him to stop drinking from the toilet, telling him he was a filthy animal, and that he needed to pull himself together.
The slurping had stopped as I shouted, and a few seconds later started again, as if he’d paused just long enough to hear what I was saying, and then shrugged and went on with his drink.
I had finally hurled enough insults at him that he stopped and came to lie down on his bed in my office, letting out a long sigh.
Later - when I glanced over and saw how he was looking longingly at me - I popped over to him and gave him that dreadful kiss.
And now I pictured him in there earlier that morning slurping up the toddler turd stew and it’s a scene I’ll never get out of my brain.
I don’t have many regrets in life.
But I regret mouth-kissing my dog that day.
Living a life with no regrets is one of my guiding principles, but there are a few other things I’m miffed at myself for mishandling:
I studied advertising in college and each year students in one of the upper-level classes - I think it was called Campaigns or something - were required to put together a full ad campaign that would not only be the culminating course grade, but was also entered into a competition, with the winners announced in a formal awards ceremony.
It was all very fancy and a really big deal, with ad agency owners and creative directors from big name Dallas ad agencies serving as the judges.
Long story short, my campaign won every single category, including Best of Show.
I was shocked.
And so proud of myself, because I’d worked so hard on that campaign.
The professor of that course approached me the next class day and said that the owner of one of the judging agencies wanted to meet me. She gave me their contact information and told me to call them.
I never called.
The professor - her name is Krispen Spencer (incidentally, I looked her up and she’s now a famous artist, and sells her art for thousands of dollars each at art galleries and even at Crate & Barrel. I sent her a private message on Facebook, too, just to thank her for believing in me because I fully believe in telling someone the nice thing you’re thinking about them) - asked me repeatedly if I’d reached out to the ad agency yet.
I always had some excuse as to why I hadn’t.
And then I was embarrassed to keep telling her I hadn’t called them, so I started lying and saying that yes, I had, but that I never heard back.
Who knows if meeting the owners of that agency would have set my advertising career on a different path than the one I took, and who knows if it would have been better for me or not?
I just wonder why I never reached out?
I look back on it now and I realize that I always undervalued my work and underestimated my abilities.
I regret not reaching out to them.
I regret not putting myself “out there” more in general.
This past summer, my dad and I went to Manchester, England, to do family history research for the book I’m writing about him and his mom and brother.
On our last day in the suburb where my grandmother grew up, we walked to the church where she was married on her 20th birthday.
It was their family church - St. Philips Salford - and was where her mom and dad were married, where their kids were Christened, and where they attended church each week.
My dad and I walked up to the front door, but it was locked. We peeked in the glass of the front door and saw that the flooring was the original black-and-white checkered tile.
There was a doorbell, so we rang the bell. The lady whose voice came out of the speaker at the front door said that they didn’t open for another two hours and she was all alone, and could not let us in.
We were on a time schedule that day and we knew it would be really tight if we came all the way back downtown to the church in two hours. It wouldn’t leave us enough time to get where we needed to be in time for my uncle to pick us up.
We left and didn’t go back.
I regret not getting a taxi or an Uber or something to get us down there when the church doors unlocked.
To be able to walk into that church and take in the smell of old wood and stone, and to walk over the same tile floor my grandmother walked 78 years ago, well…. What a missed opportunity that was.
I know I can always go back, but what if my dad can’t be with me when I go?
I regret not taking the extra energy/time/money/whatever it takes to keep from missing an opportunity I may never have again.
Forgive the cliche, but life is too short to miss chances like this.
Every day when I’m faced with a choice, I ask myself whether I’ll regret doing-the-thing or not-doing-the thing.
No regrets. YOLO.
I’ll keep living by this principle and hopefully make this go-round for me one that I can look back on and feel like I gave it everything I had.