"Early one mornin' the sun was shinin' | I was layin' in bed Wond'rin' if she'd changed at all | If her hair was still red"
These lines start Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue". The song has been around for over 40-years, playing on radios the entire time. It originally appears on Blood on the Tracks - a fine album. During those 40-years, it's also appeared on several bootleg albums.
The song is about a girl that is gone, presumably Dylan's girl. He wakes up one morning, missing her. He provides the details of the relationship: young love in trying circumstances, becomes a passionate romance that split amicably. The type of love that happens in songs and movies where the passion must go a different direction, for a time.
For his part, Dylan can't stop thinking about the girl and seeks her out. While he'd done conventional, blue-collar jobs, she'd been living a fast life, running with a questionable crowd. Her circle was made up of any type of misfit. The two get back together for a while, and then the 'bottom falls out again' - this time Dylan leaves.
In the last verse, he regrets this choice. He's older, he's seen people change, but he can't get this restless feeling out of his soul. He cannot live without her. He wishes he would have stayed. Wishes he could have been with her, and realizes that they saw things the same way, only "from a different point of view". That's possible. Many, many people follow the same track of logic, see the same movies and art, yet end up at completely different points of thought.
The album version of the song says,"I was layin' in bed". In different versions of the song, Dylan alternates between first and third person. Some versions, it's, "He was layin' in bed". The difference in perspective is huge, but Dylan always brings it around to first person at some point; he always enters the song, a song about love lost and not reclaimed.
His reason for leaving her the second time was not a mutual split. This time, it was solely his choice, and his logic is , "The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin' on like a bird that flew". This line ends the second to last verse.
But the next verse, the song's final, again goes back to her. It's the going back that I wonder about. Dylan claims he left the girl during a period of hardship because "the bottom fell out" and his natural instinct was to run. So he did. We know that when he did this earlier in the song, he was never happy. He'd do one thing for a while, before drifting to another, going from here to there, seemingly always searching for what was around him. What was next. It makes me curious about his regret. What is he regretting? Does he wish he would have stayed through the hard times? Does he wish that in both periods of hardship, instead of leaving he would have stuck it out? All the people he knew are gone, but she still haunts him; it is still her direction he wishes he would have gone in. Which makes me wonder: can keeping on the path be a bad thing?
Staying the course is often what people do. For Dylan, it was "the only thing I knew how to do". In the end he is empty. Perhaps we must change the natural inclination of moving on to something different, something better. Perhaps we must weigh the decisions and make the best one to take us in the direction of our dreams. Doing so may have some hard times attached, but also may be the thing that gets us to that next level of life.
In the end, we don't want to regret.