Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda – What have I missed?

The sentence usually begins, “If only…” – Freeman & DeWolf

Ain’t it the truth?

You know what makes me laugh? How, up until about a year ago, I thought that I’d handled things fairly well until I turned 40 and my world turned upside down.

Now, this book Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda by Dr. Arthur Freemanand Rose DeWolf was published in 1989. I picked it up a couple of years later. That would be a full ten years before my 40th birthday. The subtitle says: Overcoming regrets, mistakes, and missed opportunities. Huh. Huh? Why would I pick it up? What the h-e-double-hockey-sticks did I have to regret at that point in my life? What missed opportunities did I… um… miss?

Because, see, as I stand on the dock looking back down the river (I’ve decided to go nautical today) I don’t understand. At that point in my life, things were pretty good. Sure, the river was bumpy at points, but not from decisions I’d made… or regrets… and seriously, well… okay, I can remember one significant missed opportunity.

Since I’ve brought it up, I obviously need to tell you what it was… so here goes: I was working at Crocker Bank as a teller and doing fairly well. I was asked if I’d like a promotion to Customer Service, which meant a chair (woo hoo!) and no more balancing the drawers – which was not computerized at the time – and something of a chore. I was totally jazzed and of course, I said yes! I was to start my training for the new position on Monday.

That weekend, we had family coming for our annual summer picnic. I was a newlywed and young… but certainly not young enough to get on my young cousin’s skateboard  – along with my new husband, behind me – and ride down a concrete hill. As you might have surmised, it’s exactly what we did. So, there we were, two dumb 21-year-olds, flying what felt like 60mph down a sidewalk. With cracks and branches and stuff. About half way down, I got scared, and screamed, “I’m jumping off!” at which point, everything is kinda a blur. I remember little else other than the sight of (then) husband’s yellow terrycloth shirt (it was 1980. Give me a break!) followed by the rest of him, flying over me, as we both went ass-over-tea-kettle down the hill, behind the skateboard.

Monday morning, I called in sick because I could barely walk. Being the honest person I am, I told the truth when they asked me what happened. When I showed up to work days later, I was still a teller and remained a teller until I left less than a year later. I was pregnant.

Anyway, I always hated that I ruined my chance of moving up in the company and looked a fool, not to mention I could have killed us both. Once I was on the board, it was idiocy to just step off. Any 12-year-old could tell you that, which my cousin did, along with my other cousins, my sister, my parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents and of course, the new husband, who didn’t appreciate falling on his face, either.

So, okay, I had a regret. But I can’t imagine that one thing was enough to buy this book. And yet, here it is, among my book collection. Just interesting.

You know, this book reminds me, too, that there were a LOT of good self-help books written in the1980s and 90s. And as I sit here thinking about it, I am reminded that I also went to therapy… once or twice. One of my favorite therapists was during the 1990s. Her name was Debra. She was mother-earthy, gentle and wise. Huh. I must have had a reason for going. Dang, I’m back to myself again. Today seems to be a day that I don’t want to talk about the book as much as realizations about myself. Sorry!

This book is very good. I read it a half-dozen times, for real. Maybe not straight through, but I had bits of paper and highlights and notations. Like, in a section on “Recalculating” (also funny, since it’s such a buzz word these days, thanks to the GPS): Undoubtedly, you know your own situation better than any outsider could possibly know it. Yet you still might be assessing the data you know about yourself incorrectly. I mean, seriously! Right?

One head’s up! The authors are proponents of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) — and the idea is to get you “unblocked” or to “unlearn” the woulda/coulda/shoulda thinking. I remember when I first read it, thinking it was quite helpful, even though I’m not really a fan of CBT (and no, I don’t know why, exactly. I suspect it’s because it leaves out my favorite part of therapy – the deep dives, depth and talking).

Ahem. Anyway. This is a good book filled with checklists, exercises and tons of great information. It is the kind of book that will help with depression, getting stuck, guilt and shame, too. It’s for people with mental illness and without. It’s one of those great cross-over… totally self-help-y. I recommend it. Highly.

 

 

 

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