Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Anne’s Journal Quilt made when Mother Died

It is easy to fill our lives with our “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s. I suspect that most of us do this at some time or other in our lifetimes.

I was born in an era when women were still struggling to be women who had a lot of choices in life. When I was starting high school, my mother took me to register for my classes. There was a choice to choose a college route or the regular route. I wanted to go to college and become a nurse, likely a military nurse since I had grown up in a military family that went way back. My mother said no. She said I needed to become a secretary and find a man and get married. Really! It is hard to imagine, but that is what she believed. She had gotten married and I don’t think my mother or father finished high school. She had some problem with her mastoids when she was about my age, and in those days, was in the hospital for awhile and had surgery for it. So she and my father got married when she got well.

My father had come home from school one day when he was I think 16 or 17, and his family had moved away and abandoned him. He had other brothers and a sister who had killed herself. I really don’t know the whole story, but he lied about his age, because it was during the Great Depression, and he joined the military. He got his room and board, but in order to be able to join, he had to give all his money to a poor family who never ever thanked him.

That is most of what I know about my mother and father. So I did all the things I was supposed to and hated every minute of it. Secretaries in those days took shorthand, typed letters and used carbon to make copies and a machine I can’t remember the name of to make copies. They fetched coffee for their bosses every day and for meetings they fetched it for all the men at the meetings. And once in awhile, men treated women disrespectfully, touching them in ways that were inappropriate, and getting away with it because it was the times.

Then suddenly women’s lib came along, and so did wearing pant suits, and women were threatened with being fired if they wore those in the office. Gee, no more legs to look at or exposed body parts to be touched. But women persevered. I divorced an abusive husband, but I suppose in reality he was no more abusive than most men who believed their women should stay at home and have dinner ready for them when they walked in the door, raise their children and do their washing and ironing, and stay in the home except to take the children to the playground. Money was given to the wife to get the groceries, and sometimes the woman might get money to buy a donut or small toy for the children but there was no money for anything that might have taken care of things she might like to have.

I DID get to go to a University finally. And I DID get a degree in Archaeology. And I did work at interesting related work in Mexico and Arizona until I became ill with Valley Fever and Paratyphoid, and then I decided to do other less physically dangerous work. But I had a lot of fun along the way. One day somewhere along the way I grew up and became a bonafide human being who could buy things for herself, and who could dream of things she wanted to do and to become, and she could actually do them. She could say no to men who did anything inappropriate, and she could be her own person in general. I got married again a couple of times over the years and had some really interesting and accomplished men – an archaeologist and an anthropologist. And I learned more of the world and who I was as a human being. No more Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda. I grew into a woman who had exciting careers and who had her own businesses. And step by step, little by little, I became a fully evolved human being.

It has not been easy along the way, but that is what gives us strength in the end result. I am now 77, and I have a man in my life – my significant other, Richard – and he is none of those men I married before. He is a human being – a simple man with simple tastes and a really big heart. He doesn’t talk a lot, but when he does, what he says is real. And he has shown his goodness in so many ways without even saying anything about it. He is not a Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda man. He lives from day to day, happy with the simplest of things. I am free to be who I am and he is free to be who he is. Sometimes the simplest things are the best things in this lifetime.

I will never live in the Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda world again. I decided to get another degree at 74 and graduated in 2016, the same year I had breast cancer. It was Criminal Justice. I was going to be a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents (and I have worked with them before in other ways) but other things changed all that, so instead I am a CASA court-appointed volunteer mentor/advocate for foster children. I don’t have an assignment currently, but when I am not a caregiver for my Richard, I can do that if I choose. I am who I am and I am happy with that now. I don’t need to blame anyone else now for what I did not become. Perhaps that was never meant to be. Perhaps, just perhaps I was meant to be on the course of life I am now. It is all good, even on its worst days. I will look back on them tomorrow and be glad that I have seen many sides of life. I will be glad for the little things – a beautiful sky, a gentle breeze, a hand that reaches out and holds mine . . .

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Days Like This

Anne’s contribution for Wounded Warriors Recovery Home

It is just a little thing. I think it was 12″ w x 17″ l. It took very little time even with some hand-stitching. But that was not important at all. The whole idea was to try to bring a moment of happiness into someone’s life, especially when they have had a hard time and need some support.

These men were serving their country when they were wounded, and we need to go beyond our personal beliefs about war and whether we should have been there or not and try to help those men. My own brother came home 100% disabled from Vietnam. My brother knew nothing of Vietnam or its people and he knew even less about the politics involved. He went to serve his country as many of my relatives in the past have done; he was just 18, still a teenager. He is alive today after these many years, and it has given me the heart to help anyone who was or is suffering a physical/developmental/emotional or other challenge for the remainder of my life.

If we believe in something we are doing, we must do it and not forsake it just because there are challenges in trying to do it. The challenges of life are there to help us. Without them, we would never learn to have compassion for others, or to act when we see a need. And life’s journey would not be meaningful without them. Walking through a barren desert will never be comparable with walking through a life of valleys and mountains. And we could never learn personal strength in our beliefs -religious/spiritual without them.

The Healing

Anne’s Artistic Honda Civic 1997

There are several specific things that you can do in this life to help yourself heal from trauma or other things that happen to us in this life. 1) Pray about it, thanking your God or Spiritual Being for the experience. 2) Meditate about it, understanding that life’s challenges are important for us because without them, we could never learn compassion for others. We would also not have such a meaningful journey in life because it is the challenges that help us to appreciate the beauty that exists in the world. A life that is totally flat and without challenges is like living in a land without valleys and mountains. 3) Create, create, create. No matter how bad I might feel at any given time, creating is always something that gives me a true sense of magic, spirituality and gratitude for this life with which I have been gifted.

Doesn’t this car make you feel happy?


Creativity comes from the innermost part of our souls, whether we are dancing with joy or our eyes have cried forth many tears.

Anne’s Car, Driver’s Side

Life is so short, and I think one of the reasons we are here is to work on “getting it right.” That means that we come to terms with where we are, who we are, and what we choose to do with our lives. You can take whatever you do in this life, from being a cook in a fast food shop to being an airline pilot and everything in between. If you are a cook, know that you are doing it because you are comfortable with it, and become the best cook you can possibly be. If you are working as a cook and are not happy, what do you need to do in order to change that? It isn’t just a matter of going out and finding another job. You need to figure out who you are and what you really want to do in this life.

Anne’s Car Roof

I’ve never been wealthy; far from it. I have worked hard all my life for a little. But the whole time I ever worked once I grew up was spent doing things I wanted to do, things I believed in most sincerely, which was about serving others in ways that might make a difference in their lives, and doing things that I loved so much that I looked forward to going to every day. Money was always secondary for me to providing services to others, especially anyone with physical, developmental, emotional or other challenges.

At the end of the Vietnam War, my younger brother returned 100% physically and mentally challenged. It gave me the heart to help others the rest of my life who have had any kind of challenges. I don’t regret a single second of my work with others. It has been as satisfying as watching one of my most gorgeous flowers come into bloom.

Anne’s Car – Imagine That!

It has been a good journey. I am not saying it has not been a challenge, but isn’t anything worth doing a challenge? And you know, when we change, an interesting phenomena takes place. Other people do too. When this 22-year old car (as of 2018) was still in its original form, people treated me as if I should get out of their way and get off the road. The transformation was amazing. People on the freeways and roads gave me the peace sign or thumbs up or high fives. And when I stopped in a parking lot, people came up to me and wanted to take photos, and wanted to know the story of the car. And I made a LOT of friends over the years that way.

Make someone or a bunch of people happy today. Sometimes it can be as simple as smiling at them and saying “Hello,” or you could do a random act of kindness such as going into an old people’s home and taking a bouquet for the people who live there. Or you could thank a police person, fire person, nurse or doctor for doing what they do. True, it is what they have chosen to do, but many times they work when we are asleep or having a holiday, and they sometimes risk their own lives to do it. Creativity doesn’t have a specific face.

In Prayer We Ask . . .

Photo by Anne

Many years ago I came across a book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner. In it was a prayer by contemporary theologian, Jack Riemer, Likrat Shabbat. The prayer was one of the most memorable I have ever read, and I made a copy of it and have carried it in my wallet ever since. I periodically pull it out and reread it every now and then when I forget its message.

We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end war;
For we know that you have made the world in a way
That man must find his own path to peace
Within himself and his neighbor.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end starvation;
For You have already given us the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God,
To root out prejudice,
For You have already given us eyes
With which to see the good in all men
If we would only use them rightly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end despair,
For You have already given us the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.
We cannot merely pray to You, O God, to end disease,
For You have already given us great minds with which
To search out cures and healing,
If we would only use them constructively.
For strength, determination, and willpower,
To do instead of just to pray,
To become instead of merely to wish.