The last two weeks, I have been meditating on the lessons that regret can provide. Like some of you, I have been engaged in a form of functional grief during this time of racial and political division paired with a pandemic that is generating more variants than the roles played by Eddie Murphy in any of his films (Coming Soon: Coming to America 2).
Part of my reflections on regret stem from the death of legendary actor and trailblazer, Ms. Cicely Tyson. I, like so many others have long admired the majestic ways of Ms. Tyson and her awareness of her power as a Black woman in an industry that is known for misogynoir both in front of and behind the camera.
The sadness I felt upon her passing was compounded by the fact that I missed an opportunity to work with Ms. Tyson due to my own self-doubt.
FEAR OF SUCCESS & FEAR OF FAILURE AT PLAY
In the early months of 2020, I spoke with an old friend about wanting to broaden the impact of my children’s book, The Love of 10,000. I remember telling him how powerful it would be to have THE Cicely Tyson narrate the poem with her divine precision. My friend, who happens to be in the entertainment industry not only gave me advice on how best to approach Ms. Tyson’s manager, he also gave me her manager’s email address. I had the golden egg right there in my WhatsApp account! That was in March. Two months later, my friend emailed me to follow up on my progress:
I choked. Fear of Success and Fear of Failure came for me and I relented. Who was I to approach a woman of Ms. Tyson’s caliber? Even worse, what if she agreed to my project? Am I prepared for that kind of success given all of the transition I am just now settling into? I needed time to get my stuff together before I could approach Ms. Tyson.
Sis, Ms. Cicely was well into her 90’s. How much time were you banking on here?!?
What made my reflections on the situation even harder to stomach was listening to the interview she did with Gayle King. When Ms. Tyson mentioned that she felt like she still had work to do and that is why she was still here, I placed my hands over my face.
REGRET: A FORMIDABLE TEACHER
Please understand, I am not delusional in my thinking that this remarkable woman was tied to this plain because of my children’s book. I am sure Tyler Perry had at least five more projects slated for her. However, what if I had stepped forward into the dream I allowed myself to speak to someone who just happened to have a key to unlock a door?
Do you have any stories of regret versus risk and what have you learned from them? For me, I can recount situations where I truly regretted the outcomes (clearly not reaching out to Ms. Tyson is pretty high on my list). I also can relive those times I have taken a risk and was better for it. What I am going to encourage myself to do moving forward (and would love for you to try it out with me), is to use regret in a more concrete way in order to actualize my liberation and further embrace my purpose. Here are a few questions I would like for us to play with (you know you missed my 7 Questions!):
- What are the stories I am telling myself about stepping into this opportunity? Are they my stories or stories passed on to me for safety’s sake (physical, psychological or both)?
- Who do I have in my circle of support that can talk me off the Fear of Failure/Success ledge in the moments where my Inner Critic seems to be most convincing?
- What role, if any, does my spirituality play in me stepping into and preparing for opportunities outside of my comfort zone?
- Speaking of preparation, what role, if any, does perfectionism have in the emotional paralysis that occurs when I am preparing for a large-scaled opportunity?
- What have I learned, embodied and enabled in myself and those around me about taking risks and what needs to change/be dismantled (if anything) to accommodate opportunities that align with what I see as my purpose?
- What are examples of living a life of regret that I can visualize in those moments of making the commitment to follow through on my goals that will shake me out of complacency?
- How can I use my story of regret to inspire others to have the courage to step out of their comfort zones (while relinquishing the shame associated with the experience)?
In closing, I would like to leave you with the words of Ms. Cicely Tyson as she talks about the journey to writing her autobiography, Just As I Am: