I have been staring at the same four walls for three days. Within this eight by six foot room the lack of sunlight and glare from the naked bulb is making my eyes sting and I feel incredibly nauseous. Every muscle hurts, my hands are raw and scratched and I am feeling detached. Lost in my thoughts, I am still aware of a faint voice in the background which I think I tuned out hours ago. Tiredness overwhelms and I begin to reflect on the chain of events that escalated out of control and ultimately led to this incarceration.
Since moving into the flat two years ago I have decorated every room, laid the floors, installed the new kitchen and painted over the Toy Story bedroom wallpaper. Over time and with help from friends and family, mainly my Mum, I have a nice, comfortable living space for myself and now housemate. But it’s not quite finished and for months now Mum has been encouraging me to lay a new carpet in my bedroom. Due to stubbornness, I have rebelled and ignored her suggestions even though I know it would look better but it’s my flat I’ll do what I want! Post Christmas, once again carpets were mentioned and in true Mother-Daughter fashion, juvenility took over as I snorted ‘leave me alone’ followed by a flippant, throw away remark…. ‘I’d rather do the bathroom first!’
Big mistake! When DIY is involved my Mum turns into an enthusiastic unpaid property developer and within two weeks I have bought the tiles, temporarily kicked Housemate out and the parents have moved into my tatty carpeted bedroom. In my brightly lit bathroom I stop daydreaming, return to reality, carefully stick the last tiles to the shower wall and realise the faint voice is that of my Mum. She is deliberating whether we should have sealed the tiles, can spirit levels be wrong and is this adhesive suitably water-proof? She is only thinking aloud and doesn’t need a response so I again switch off, begin grouting and think is there anything I ‘should have’ done differently since buying this flat.
Weeks before I moved here my partner and I were having problems and talking about taking a break. During our decision making I went out one night and slept with someone else. I could give reasons, excuses and try to justify my actions but the shameful reality is that I was a coward who was easily flattered and wanted a way out. We did not take a break and I did not take my way out but instead admitted my infidelity, breaking her heart and mine. We still moved in together and naively, no, stupidly, thought we could move on, but judging from what I write about we know it didn’t work out like that.
Should have, would have and if only! Words I can only associate with regret. That was my one regret and for a long time it was all consuming. ‘I should have gone home alone and I would have prevented the pain I'm causing’, ‘If only I had not slept with someone else, maybe we would be working out’ and ‘I should have walked away before it got to this’. Too busy chastising myself and asking for forgiveness, I could not admit we were both in the wrong relationship and regardless of my actions we would still never make it work. I made a huge mistake which I am still ashamed of but I can learn from it, not be a coward and never repeat the performance in any future relationship.
Mum is once again thinking aloud; this time worrying that we should have raised the bath to avoid the millimetre gap that no-one will ever see and if only we hadn’t starting grouting before dinner we could move tiles for reasons unbeknown to me. I ungratefully respond with ‘well there’s not a lot we can do now, is there?’ and visualise, hitting my head against the 'stuck forever and never coming off the wall' tiles in a fit of despair. She is just worrying that the bathroom won’t be perfect and of course it is. Her constant questioning and strive for DIY perfection does have some benefits but is it really worth the feeling of regret in the meantime?
Can we ever be truly content and satisfied with life if constantly questioning how it could have been better? I have banned ‘should have’, ‘would have’ and ‘if only’ from my vocabulary and hopefully I won’t ever regret a part of my life to the extent I have to reinstate them again. Mistakes happen and if we can learn, become wiser and attempt to not repeat history then we should ‘not’ have done anything differently…. Except maybe I 'should have' stopped watching Changing Rooms, thinking ‘I can do that’ and hired a professional tradesman to do the job instead!