How they shoulda, coulda, woulda

November 9, 2020

One of my friends lives in a state of constant regret. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

I can see how it happened: Traumatized at an early age by a dominant, unreasonable and abusive father, this sensitive soul built protective walls. The walls weren’t strong enough and didn’t keep them safe.

But what they DID do, was prevent them from being alive. From living a full life. From participating with their whole heart and soul. And from resilience. No resilience was built.

Consequently, their life became all about regret:

I should’ve left the situation.
I should have done something else.
I should have bought the house.
I never should’ve married them.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

My friend is still so busy regretting the past–and developing new regrets, yes, even today–that they’ve missed living.

It’s very hard for me to stand by silently. But, at this stage of my life I have learned that I simply can not fix people. They must not only want to fix themselves, but actually take action in that direction.

When I look at my friend, this is what occurs to me:

Our task here is to be alive NOW, to live with open hearts and to live our way through problems to the other side.

It is not to live in regret.

Sure, we’ll falter along the way, make bad decisions and good ones, too.

Our task here is to participate in life–all of it. The whole range. Not to hide deadened souls behind too-thin walls. 

One of my friends will occasionally remind me to move on from an obsession: “!” he will exhort.

Yes, for sure. Move on.


10 comments on “How they shoulda, coulda, woulda
  1. Beth Havey says:

    Excellent point, though it’s so hard for some to move on. They are pinned to their anger at parental mistakes or they use that anger to further damage what could be healing. Here is hoping that those who are STUCK, will seek help. Great post.

  2. laurie stone says:

    Mistakes are teachers, so is failure. If we put lots of pressure on ourselves to win and be perfect all the time, that’s a tough road to take.

    • What a good point, Laurie.

      • azure says:

        “If we put lots of pressure on ourselves to win and be perfect all the time, ” or others push & push. “Always give120% more!” is an example, as is the idea that you can always, always ‘get better’. Maybe you can’t at some things and why do you have to always “get better”?
        Most schools penalize failure, it’s the A’s that matter, not how hard someone work or even how much they learned. Getting into the “right school” counts so much (another way of “winning” or striving to be among “the best”)–if that weren’t so would the US have seen this particular scandal? A friend of mine was a college profressor at a upper middle rank private university–by the time he retire he was very ready to leave. Why? Because he was tired of spending so much of his work time checking online to make sure his students hadn’t bought their paper online or plagarized. Because of course, those student felt pressure to succeed, to get that A.
        We’ve spent 4 years watching how much it matters to one person to be perceived (to believe himself, at least momentarily) to be the “best” all the time–and he got lots of votes.

  3. Diane says:

    How very sad this is. “…so busy regretting the past–and developing new regrets, yes, even today–that they’ve missed living…”
    I am seeing this in my own family. Right now.
    And it’s tearing all of us in two.
    Thank you for this SO TIMELY advice!

  4. Dianne, I can see how that happens…I have began focusing on what I look forward to tomorrow. It has become a habit and has replace the Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda in my life. Thank you.

  5. Alana says:

    Move on – good advice. I can see the wisdom in the part of my personality that carries grudges for a long time. And yet – I know that grudges can tear a family apart. A grudge split my father’s side of the family apart for years, all over something that started so innocently. I should know better than to relive the past.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "How they shoulda, coulda, woulda"
  1. […] “Regrets…I’ve had a few…” Regrets and resilience are two sides of the same coin, but only one supports a full life, Carol Cassara points out today, in her post “How They Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda” […]

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