Today’s Daily Prompt suggests visiting an event in the past that we think could have played out differently, and to write about what could, would, or should have happened. Uh-uh. I don’t do that … anymore at least.
I’m a dreamer. Have an [over] active imagination. Love to think up possibilities and see them through in my mind from start to finish. Like to come up with Plan Bs,Cs, and all the way to backup plan Zs even. “Paralysis by analysis”. Yep, I’ve heard that phrase said about me before, both in my personal and my professional life. All in all, this tendency of mine can be a blessing, can be of value and service to others … when balanced by a lovely KISS: keep it simple silly. Great thing to plan for the future. I haven’t met goals in life simply by writing out a line or two on a piece of paper or word processor. They needed plans and steps – and flowcharts, spreadsheets, and multi-layered bullet lists in my style of planning. Terrific skill to have for looking ahead, not so much for looking behind.
If I apply all of those wonderful attributes of me to my past, I get lost, very very lost. I waste time on futile observations and crafting scenes for a chapter that never did nor ever will get written, at least not for my autobiography. I spend way too much time living in locations where I don’t hold a mortgage or pay rent = other people’s minds. And even if, big IF, whatever even could have played out differently, who do I think I am for having the power to possess any control or insight into just exactly how it would have played out. Silly me.
Definition of would, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
- used to indicate what someone said or thought about what was going to happen or be done
- used to talk about a possible situation that has not happened or that you are imagining
- used with have to talk about something that did not happen or was not done
Yeah, I think Merriam-Webster addresses that part of today’s prompt for me. Enough said.
Should. That’s the most dangerous of the three for me. I use that word in relation to two things: me and you. Inappropriate in either case. I should have done XXX, I should have known better, I should be a better mom, I should quit smoking, and so on and so on. I think you get my drift. Maybe it’s used re: some positive things I’m talking about for myself. Nobody would likely argue with my statement of I should quit smoking. And yes I should. But should ain’t gonna get me anywhere. In fact, sometimes it holds me back. I sink deep into self-persecution about the things I should be doing and currently am not and I don’t know about you but when I’m down on myself, I’m not motivated to do a darn thing other than criticize myself even more. So I watch for that word when referencing myself and try where possible to replace it with the word will. I WILL quit smoking. That’s affirming, that’s empowering, that’s something that moves me to action.
So if it’s risky for me to use the word should when speaking of myself, then I really shouldn’t (pun intended) be using it when talking about others. I spend some time around tables in church basements that have staircases with 12 steps in them. A phrase I hear in those rooms sometimes is this: expectations are pre-meditated resentments. Wow. Talk about a loaded punch. Hits me hard when I hear it. Why? Because it’s true. If I EXPECT you to do (or have done) something, and you fail me, I’m all ready to be good and ticked off at you. You didn’t do what I thought you could, would, and/or should have done. Triple play there. Think I’ll just leave it at that.
So shoulda, coulda, and woulda, well, I try very hard to not use them in my vocabulary anymore. There are reasonable uses of the words, of course, but I try to stay mindful of whether that use of the word is grounded in reality or my imagination. Factual use is fine, fiction, well that’s where they don’t belong, unless they’re in the novel I’m writing.
Maybe I could have written a more fitting post to Today’s Prompt. Maybe some of my readers will think I should have done so. I even know I could have done so. But I’m a rebel with a cause and that cause is to make my life better, even when reflecting on my own perfectly imperfect imperfections. So my response is a non-response I guess. Oh well, it is what it is. As soon as it I hit “Publish” it will be in the past. And the past is called history for a reason. It tells a STORY. This one is part of mine.