No regrets – “Je ne regrette rien”

by Annie Kaszina on January 25, 2007

This morning, I found myself unexpectedly with extra time
when a colleague didn’t call as planned. As I pottered off to vacuum the carpet (that’s extra time stuff rather
than top priority) I heard Edith Piaf singing, “Je ne regrette rien” on the
radio and I was blown away.

I’ve always loved that song* – hasn’t everyone? It has always struck me as being a personal
statement of courage and faith in the future. Today it did so more than ever.

Now, you could argue that Edith Piaf was doing pretty
well, at least by the time she sang that. But in the end it’s all a matter of perception.

Her childhood was perfectly dreadful, and
she was no stranger to abuse or loss. Despite her success, she didn’t even die rich. Edith Piaf certainly had her share of suffering. 

The French lyrics, for which there seems to be no good,
literal translation, are poetic, earthy and moving. Piaf sings to the effect that she has no regrets at all. She
regrets neither the good nor the harm that people have done her. It’s all been paid for, swept way,
forgotten. She doesn’t give a **** (the
French word is deliberately crude) for the past.

Now in the past it was Piaf’s lack of regrets that moved
me. Somewhere along the line, like most
abused women, I acquired a terror of doing something I might live to
regret. An abusive partner, and maybe a
parent beforehand, drills into us the conviction that putting up and shutting
up is always the safest thing; any deviation from that position will only ever
make things worse.

Piaf’s absolute refusal to ‘do’ regret, no less than her
magnificent, unique voice, has always stirred my soul. 

Today, however, it was another line that left me
speechless. The final line she sings
is: “I’m starting again from zero (Je repars à zero)”. She sings it, not as a statement of
desperation but as an affirmation of hope, of courage and life.

It’s usual, normal even, for abused women to feel at rock
bottom. In the course of their
relationship they have endured huge losses. 

The challenge Piaf poses is this: does it have to be a
place of hopelessness and fear, or can we make it a springboard for our hopes,
dreams and ambitions? 

The choice is ours.

I’ve yet to meet anyone who was accurate at predicting their
own future. Life has an uncanny way of
taking the twists and turns you don’t foresee. 

Still, we are more likely to pick up on, and magnify, the
things we choose to focus on. 

So if you focus on our capacity for unhappiness and pain,
then that is what you will experience most in your life. If you focus on your strength, your courage,
your capacity for love, your humanity and your potential, then that is what you
will register. These things may be
driven underground in an abusive relationship, but they are never lost. They remain as seeds beneath the snow.

If you feel that you are starting from, or near, zero in
2007, my wish for you is that even 10% of the time you think about doing it
Piaf style. You may not believe it now,
but even 10% of the time is enough to produce massive change. Allow your starting point to be a
place of hope, courage and life even 10% of the time, and you will
recover your sense of joy, meaning and purpose. What’s more, you will do so far faster than you might imagine. 

*If you are not familiar with “Je ne regrette rien”, you
can listen for free to a sample by clicking through to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Non,_je_ne_regrette_rien

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