As we journey through life we come upon many obstacles, detours that stop us in our tracks, that force us to find another path, a different way, to rethink. These obstacles often result in an awakening, a shift, a different perspective. Many times, they are the result of traumatic events; a divorce, a diagnosis, a death. Actress Valerie Bertinelli knows this well. She watched her ex-husband and love of her life, rock star Eddie Van Halen, struggle with and eventually die of cancer. It was a terrible jolt, and it changed her, she believes, for the better.
“Do I wish I had done some things different? Absolutely,” she explained. “But regrets are how we learn. They help us change. I regret not hugging Ed more when I could see that he wanted it. I regret not telling certain people how much I absolutely love them because you never know if it will be the last time you see them. Those regrets made me more aware. They are what made me tell Ed, ‘I love you,’ every time we said goodbye, even right before he had his final stroke. I’m so comforted to know that those were the last words he ever heard from me.”
Regrets, Bertinelli learned, can either hold you back or propel you forward. She says she has figured out how to use them to her benefit, where for years they kept her in a terrible state of mind. “I have so many regrets that used to constantly weigh on me and fill my mind,” she told Growing Bolder, “No matter what good happened, all I could ever see for most of my life were my mistakes and my faults.”
Quite often, the way others see us is not the way we see ourselves. Bertinelli was 15 when she starred in the TV series, One Day at a Time. A generation of teens wanted to be like her. She saw something different. “I rarely thought of myself as anything but a failure.” Where others saw talent, success, beauty, and compassion she saw doubt, guilt, imperfection, and shame.
“I have always believed this lie that if I am suffering with grief or fear, or if I gain weight and don’t look my best that I am unlovable,” she said. “And I finally understand that it is just not true. It is much better to feel vulnerable than to feel the constant sadness, fear, and shame that I’ve felt for so long.”
It is a struggle she has carried throughout her adult life, and one she does not wish to carry anymore. “So, I am searching for joy and trying to find ways to be kinder to myself.”
It is why she authored the book, Enough Already: Learning to Love the Way I Am Today. Bertinelli turns 62 this month and where many dread aging she believes she is excited about the future. “They say age is an opportunity and it’s true,” she said. “It’s a chance to be kinder to one another and to ourselves.”
Her career is also booming. She signed a contract extension with Food Network, and she is developing a comedy series for NBC. The work is something she did not expect. “I am absolutely shocked to have these opportunities,” she said. “For me it is all about gratitude. Every day the first thing I say before I open my eyes is ‘thank you.’ Just thank you. Life really is good, and I am learning to love the way I am today.”