the death of coulda-shoulda

Mountain View Cemetery in snow by Ron DeKett
Mountain View Cemetery in snow by Ron DeKett

Trucker stalled on expressway being interviewed on NBC news during snowstorm: “You gotta take what the road gives you. Go slow, be patient, and you’ll make it through.”

I’m sure there’s a country-western song that says, “You gotta take what the road gives you,” and if there isn’t there oughta be.

Do you have couldas and shouldas you’d like to join me in burying? If you’re willing to share, please comment at the end of this blog.

At this stage in my writing life, I look back now and then and wonder at my choices. My love of poetry started in my Iowa childhood when I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses to my mother while she milked cows. In grad school, poetry saw me through tough personal times. Throughout a long journalism career, it gave me an outlet for my artistic freedom, denied by the rigors of objectivity and fairness. My task was to blast out inches to fill newspaper columns. “How many inches?” was a daily question I asked my editors. At times, I felt like an automaton.

When I went freelance for a time, my mother admonished me not to try to write fiction because I’d never make a living at it. Maybe I shoulda been an English teacher? Maybe I coulda been something better than I was?

Now in retirement, I remember a few things I did as a journalist that were useful, such as a series of stories in Michigan revealing contamination of local residents’ well water by a county-owned landfill. Public water lines were laid for those whose wells were polluted. The residents sent me flowers, which I had to give away, of course, but I remember how welcome they were.

Yes, maybe I coulda, maybe I shoulda, but I do know that I dida at least that one thing that was good, so I’m burying the couldas, the shouldas, and I’m happy for what the road gives me. Just today I received an email from a reader I don’t know who asked permission to use one of my poems from The Pantyhose Declarations in a Becoming Women of Wisdom group. She made my day! Here and now, the road gives me a sustaining community of writers and artists who help me believe every day my life is worthwhile.


6 thoughts on “the death of coulda-shoulda”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing Nan.

    Lately, I’ve felt this way. I’ve been regretting the alternate decisions not made or the roads not taken and wondering about the what ifs.

    Indeed, a great lesson in how to live in the moment and choosing happiness.

      1. Yes, absolutely! I would love a story on what ifs. I’ve been having an ongoing daydream in my head: What if I hadn’t married the man I married? What if I had gotten a job in Virginia or Maryland, close to Washington, D.C., my favorite city? What if I had started traveling in the 1960s while I was still young and strong?

  2. If I could go somehow go back in time, I would try to convince myself that looking like a fool or that making myself vulnerable was worth the temporary discomfort.

    Maybe I would have tried more things? Maybe I would have become more successful as a result?

    I wish I would have realized that nobody was ever even paying that much attention…so there was no real reason I should have felt foolish about anything in the first place.

    I like the idea of “burying” this way of thinking. I also feel I should bury the way in which I STILL beat myself up over the time I wasted by worrying that I was never going to be good at anything!

    It’s liberating! If I could just do it!

    1. Traci, I agree it is liberating. Until I heard what that trucker said, I didn’t realize how stubbornly those coulda-shoulda thoughts/attitudes hung around in the back of my mind. Here I am 71 & still trying to get the hang of living in the here and now.

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