Woulda, coulda, shoulda . . . the holy trinity of regret. Not too long ago there was a story circulating around the news services about a lady who showed up at her ex-boyfriend’s house to demand back twenty dollars that she had loaned him while they were dating. That loan was made ten years earlier, but she wanted her money back. She made quite a scene and ended up getting arrested for a couple of outstanding warrants. I imagine that she regretted her actions as she is sitting in jail because she couldn’t let twenty dollars go. But, then again, she might have been righting a long held regret . . . after all, twenty dollars is twenty dollars.
I wondered about what would make a person, ten years later, be mad enough to go pounding on an ex-boyfriend’s door wanting twenty bucks. Twenty bucks wouldn’t even get you more than two coffees at Starbucks! I think that there was more to her anger than just twenty bucks. Maybe she didn’t get everything off her chest when they broke up . . . maybe she felt slighted . . . maybe, just maybe, she felt jilted, rejected, and put upon. Maybe she sat around for ten years thinking that she woulda punched him the first time had she been prepared for rejection . . . or that she coulda begged for him to stay . . . or that she shoulda dumped him first. Maybe she had the big itch of regret and needed to scratch it before it drove her bongers . . . or, maybe it did and she was arrested pounding on his door ten years later. Regret has a way of getting to people.
Then I thought, good for you girl! Get it off of your chest! Scratch that itch! After all, regret will eat you up if you carry it long enough. I mean, on the relationship end of life, this woman’s actions made me remember all those relationships in my life that didn’t quite make it. In some of them I was just plain stupid, in others I got dumped . . . in all of them I often wondered if I had done something different if life would be different today . . . or, if they had done something different would life be different today. But, in all honesty, I did not fret over most of them too long . . . usually someone else came along, grabbed my attention, and life went on. At the same time, there are a few that I wish I had told them off . . . like the one who told me that I danced like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. I pretty much didn’t dance again until my daughter got married and we had the traditional “father-daughter” dance. Who knows, that little criticism might have killed a wonderful career as a professional dancer . . . but, I doubt it. Woulda, coulda, shoulda . . .
I learned my lesson about regret the hard way. When I was in the eighth grade our football team was scheduled to play against a school that I had attended. I knew all the players on the other team as we had gone to school together for years. To them I was just a clumsy dork when I went to school with them . . . but by the eighth grade, in a new school, I was one of the better players on the team that played both ways. I really looked forwarded to the big game . . . then I skipped a practice to go watch the freshman team play the big rivalry game. I thought the coach would make me run extra laps for skipping practice . . . instead I was told I couldn’t play in the game against my old school . . . told that I could stay home for that game. Man, I was nearly twenty-five years old before I forgave myself for that one . . . or, maybe I haven’t even today. After all, didn’t I just bring it up again.
What I do know is that I carried that regret around for a long, long time. Every time I thought about that I got that sick feeling in my stomach. I felt bad . . . just like I did when the coach told me I was staying home. I also know that I never did anything like that ever again . . . ever!
Life is too short to live it with regret. What any of us could, would, or should do should be taken seriously when it is happening . . . not afterwards because that would create regret. I have seen how regret can make one’s life depressing . . . I have witnessed it in the lives of others who I love . . . and, I have seen it through the ministry I have experienced in a lot of congregations. It is sad.
As it has been said, carpe diem . . . seize the day! Seize the day . . . seize the opportunity . . . seize the moment. Don’t let life slip by and fill one with the holy trinity of regret—woulda, coulda, shoulda. Life is too short for that . . .
I think that that lady who got arrested for demanding her twenty dollars back ten years after the big break-up might have waited just a little too long to seize the moment. Besides, I doubt if I would have carried that regret for ten years for twenty dollars . . . now, if you add interest and inflation rates to that twenty dollars over a ten year period . . . I just might have been the one pounding on that door . . . but, it sure wouldn’t have been for twenty dollars! Oh, well!