The Art of the Do-Over

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What would you do over, if you could?

My husband and I were recently talking about things we truly wished we could do over again. He’d wished he’d attended high school prom with the girl who’d asked him. I wished I’d actually dated a particular boy in my senior year of high school, despite my parents’ objections—because, looking back, I’m pretty sure he was my first love. But I was an extremely obedient daughter and I did what I thought was best at the time.

Do-overs. Regret is a slow, sweet poison that we enjoy as a self-stew (because we’re complicated creatures), but the truth is, most regrets are pointless unless we use them to wise-up or, even better, go try to fix a past wrong through an action we take in the present.

Yeah. Like messaging an old friend on facebook out of the blue and apologizing for a painful mistake I’d made. In my case, it was poorly executed judgment from a position in which I should have been impartial. And although the talk was totally awkward, it ended with kind words and exchanging photos of our children—peace offerings.

Regrets and wishes for do-overs give me the reminder I’m not static, living my life on one unwavering course. I screw up, I hurt people, I act with oblivious carelessness, but you know what’s really encouraging? Apologizing has got a hell of a lot easier. I can’t explain it. Maybe my pride got majorly deflated in college after someone called me out for gossiping. (Yep. That stopped me in my tracks. I had an artificial fever for about 24 hours. Pure shame). Or maybe the art of begging forgiveness truly grows easier with practice, just like everything else.

The conversation about do-overs left me uplifted, almost like a pep-talk. I saw that my regrets had altered how I live now, guiding me toward what is truly valuable, exhorting me to embrace integrity, honesty, transparency and awkward humility.

I like to think that God is sanding down my rough edges so that the person I’m becoming is more loving, less rushed, and porous to the reasons for joy and laughter that surround me daily.

Dare I ask…What would you do over? Does your do-over bleed into anything you might do today that would heal the world, even in a small way?

Beauty will save the world, you guys. I believe it.

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

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