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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Standing Tall

“Strength”by Anne Copeland

Life doesn’t always give us strength when we need it most. We may be ill ourselves and still have to take care of our significant other. Or perhaps we have to deal with legal issues that we are ill equipped financially or otherwise to deal with. Or a child has run away, or gone missing. There are as many things as we have to deal with as we could come up with, sometimes multiple issues at the same time.

When my significant other came home from a major cervical surgery, I was ill and had been for months with chronic bronchitis. He was not ready to be released without some form of nursing care or rehab; he could not lift his own body up from bed as his right arm was paralyzed, and he could not cut up his own food to prevent choking, or to even bathe himself or use the bathroom by himself. I am sure there are others who have been in the same situation with loved ones.

Each day I dragged myself out of bed, and did whatever was necessary to help him. During this time, I also had to get him to multiple medical appointments and back to the spinal clinic in another town about an hour away. As we were about to enter the clinic one day, I suddenly remember the lights going out and falling on my face in the dirt. Luckily some good folks came and helped me back up; my significant other could not possibly help me and he was clearly upset and terrified. My nose still feels as though it was broken and I hit my head pretty hard, and hurt my knees as well. Other than going to emergency and waiting for perhaps 10 – 12 hours, I chose to just try to make the best of it all. I cannot leave my significant other at this time.

The fault is not that of his doctors or mine. It is the Medicare and MediCal insurance that is not giving us what we need. When I had a bad infection, even though the medication was prescribed by a specialist, I could not get it for two weeks because the Pharmaceutical Department of the insurance had to approve it as it was not covered. In my younger years, I was a Regulatory Compliance Specialist for a major pharmaceutical company that made plasma derivative products, so I guess I know a little bit about that issue. During the two weeks that I was ill, the infection got worse, resulting in my still being ill after a couple of months. I file grievances on both issues, and I will follow through on it even though I am still having a difficult time as is my significant other.

The point is not to tell my own story for others to feel sorry for me. The point is that sometimes we have to stand tall when we are feeling weak. We need to remember that even though it is not easy, we have to stand up for our rights, and for those of others. No one said this life would be a bowl of cherries; there are challenges every single day of one type or another. And we don’t need to lose our love of life and the world. We need to remember that when we have our worst challenges, there are always others who are far worse off. Try to help someone else who is worse off than you are, at least giving them words of hope if nothing else. And try to stay strong in the face of many barriers to everyday life. Remember that no challenge lasts forever. STRENGTH is our friend.

In this World of Ordinary People

A couple of ordinary people, Anne and Richard

In this world of ordinary people, extra-ordinary people, I am glad there is you. I wish each and every one of you extra-ordinary people the very best life has to offer for the New Year and all the Years to follow. Some of you may think yourselves ordinary, but in my life, you are miracles, and you are sacred. Thank you for the many gifts you have brought into my life.