I have a bad habit of ‘shoulda’-ing on everything. I’ve done it for quite a while, unfortunately, and just now realized it.
I think most people ‘shoulda’ about what they personally should have done. Our hindsight is always so crystal – we can see better choices, better options, the errors we made. If only we had done this, done that, not done what we did. A lot of shoulda happens in the dark corners of our mind when we think about things.
Usually, I don’t get caught up in the things I should have done. My rationale is it is in the past, it is done, over, kaput and I can’t hop in a DeLorean and travel back to change anything. Sure, I’ve made my share of mistakes. I have made some humdingers and some doozies. But I guess I am either foolish or wise enough (there is a pretty thin line there) to know that there’s not a lot that can be done about it in the present.
My biggest pile of shoulda involves what I think others shoulda done.
It’s a generational shoulda, really. I do this like my Mama, who is only repeating what she saw her own mama do.
It’s terrible, really. We don’t even realize how bad we were at shoulda-ing.
When I lost three of my pups last summer – all within a month – I made a mental note of who had expressed their condolences. Probably more importantly, I noted who did not.
On both sides, I was shocked. Some people I had not spoken to in years offered sympathy; a few who were supposed to be my dearest friends didn’t even acknowledge my loss.
I filed it all away in my little mental safe, telling myself that it was during those moments we found out who our true friends were, who really cared about us and those that were not real friends.
When Granny passed away the following spring, a similar thing occurred.
Some people expressed sympathy; some people didn’t.
We won’t even get into the texts messages I received as I sat with my Mama and uncle, making her arrangements, by people who knew good and well where I was, two hours away and the nature of the business I was tending to. I uttered some bad words and curses that woulda made my Granny proud.
It hurts when we grieve, when we succeed or have any significant thing happen in our life and the people we have invested time in don’t acknowledge it. I honestly think this happens to everyone. Is it a matter of sometimes, we just care more about others than they do us? Or are some people so self-involved that if it isn’t about them, they don’t care?
Mama was talking about Granny the other day and mentioned how one of the few, rare friends that had outlived the old gal didn’t even call to say she was sorry Granny had passed.
“I find that just dreadful,” Mama said. She was on her proprietary soapbox and for once, I couldn’t blame her. “Every time that woman had a hang nail, Granny took her chicken and biscuits and she couldn’t even call to say she was sorry Granny had died?”
I understood – believe me. I did. To the very core of my being, I knew where Mama was coming from and this time, I let her rant.
“Mama, I am going to be honest with you. I thought that lady had kicked the bucket 15 years ago. Are you sure she’s alive?”
“She’s alive, alright,” Mama said. “She’s alive and well because she called over here in the fall to see if we wanted to buy some $40 bucket of popcorn for her great-grandchild’s school fundraiser. Granny told her our colons won’t tolerate any kind of corn anymore, so I guess she decided to mark Granny off her list.”
Mama made her little ‘hrrmping’ noise she makes when her fur is petted backwards. “She should have at least called to say she was sorry,” was her final comment.
I try or at least I think I do, to care and comment and praise or empathize with those I care about. Try being the operative word here. I am not as great at that as I should be.
A few months later, Mama asked me if one of my dear friends knew Granny had died. I told her I didn’t know if she did or not, I hadn’t heard from her in a while. She’s busy, I’m busy – I gave Mama the excuses, but I felt certain a mutual friend had surely told her. It hurt. It hurt more than I wanted to admit and I pushed it off, saying “oh, well, she’s been so busy and Granny was rude as an alley cat to her last time she saw her…”
On Cole’s birthday, I received an email, sending SuperBaby well wishes and wanting an update on what was new in my world. It had been close to a year since our last emails.
“In case you didn’t know…Granny died in March…”
She didn’t know. But she did know how bad it hurt because she had dealt with loss and painful grief too. “I know what you are going through…if you need me, no matter how busy I am, I am a call away…”
Why hadn’t I emailed her, or called her? I knew how she had been grieving – why hadn’t I been the one to send an email or a card or a call, or heck, an impersonal text message and say, ‘how are you?’, ‘I am thinking about you.’ No, I hadn’t. And boy, I shoulda. I really shoulda.
Mama was fussing again a few days later. This time, my heart, was softened, having compassion instead of filled with shouldas.
“Mama, I know you think they should have done things differently. I don’t really disagree with you. I know Granny would have done it like that. But that was her generation, things were just different then,” I began. “But maybe instead of us imposing our rules on people unaware to them, we should realize maybe they are doing the best they can. Maybe they have things they are working through in their own lives and it’s not easy for them to be able to offer support to someone else.”
Mama was quiet. She does that when she is considering I may actually know a thing or two.
“You may be right,” she said, leaning in to what I was saying. “Maybe we have been too hard on some people. There may be times we shoulda done more too. We do need to quit getting upset when people don’t do what we think they should do, when maybe they don’t know they should have done it.”
“We gotta quit getting upset when people don’t do what we think they should.”
We shoulda done that a long time ago.