≡ Menu

You coulda been dead all this time and Other Words of Wisdom from My Mother

I have my mother to thank for my healthy attitude toward aging.

She’s the reason why I never lie about my age and why I think the whole ‘you should never ask a lady her age’ is an outdated concept that needs to go. I mean, honestly. Nobody ever says, ‘never ask a man his age,’ so if us older gals want society to view our age as an asset instead of a liability … then it begins with us and how we view ourselves.

How old am I? Fifty-one, thanks for asking!

My thoughts about aging haven’t always been as healthy, however. I distinctly remember a time in my late teens when I believed that you might as well die when you turn thirty because your life is basically over.

I know. That was completely obnoxious. But I was a mess-up kid back then and karma has since punished me by making my mature neck skin resemble a vagina. So there’s that. And it goes without saying that due to this haunting misbelief, I was a COMPLETE and total WRECK on my thirtieth birthday.

So I did what I always do when I’m depressed: I called my mom.

See, here’s the thing. There are some people in the world who offer patience and compassion to the despaired ramblings of others, handing over tissues and pulling them tight to their bosoms with comforting there, there, let me hold you.

My mom is not that kind of person.

She’s the kind who will swiftly and suddenly tells you to knock that shit off, which … most times … is exactly what you need the most.

So after listening to my despaired rambling about turning thirty for, oh, thirty seconds, she swiftly and suddenly cut me off by saying, “Yeah, well, what would you rather be, a dead twenty-nine-year-old? Because that’s your only other option.”

Huh.

Um … okay, she’s got a point, there. There was absolutely nothing I could do to change the fact that I was thirty, leaving me with just one choice: embrace my age and be grateful for not being a dead-twenty-nine-year-old. So instead of wallowing when I turned 40, I was grateful for not being a dead thirty-nin-year-old. I had the same policy for the big 5-0 and I look forward to the day when I can slay 80.

Last March, however, I had another moment of despair.

All of us did in March when the reality of Covid-19 crashed down upon us full force with fear and hopelessness. I, like so many of us, had grand plans on how to use my quarantine time wisely. I was going to finish my manuscript! Start an Authortube channel! Read books! Take courses, lose weight, purge my closets, and BE AWESOME!

But that didn’t exactly happen.

I struggled with my manuscript. A lot. And because we lived in fear over our family company going out of business, I was also weighed down with tons of guilt, remorse, and the dreaded coulda woulda shoulda’s.

I coulda been better supporting my family financially had I never quit writing.

I woulda been able to sell books had I taken my writing career more seriously instead of allowing myself to be ruled by fear, doubt, procrastination, and a host of other mental demons.

I shoulda at least self-published my first two novels, now that I have the rights back.

So I did what I always do when I’m depressed: I called my mom.

Once again, she interrupted my despaired ramblings with a curt, “Yeah, well, you coulda been dead all this time, Laura. So stop looking back and just start again.”

Huh.

Um … okay, once again, she had a point. One that we all know is true: you can’t turn back time and you can’t go back. All you can do is start where you stand and begin again.

And after giving it some more thought, I realized her insight could also help my manuscript, Fair Winds, and Mermaids. (Working title only … although I kind of love it.) My main character is a 51-year-old (oh, what a coincidence) divorcee who is ruled by the false belief that it’s too late for her to start over, that it’s too late for a new life.

Mom’s advice reminded me of U2’s video for the song Stuck in a Moment. Do you remember it? If not, it’s about a football kicker who missed a clutch field goal that would have won the game for his team.

Oh, this video. Back when it first came out, I hated it because it was so sad. I remember thinking, if only he made the field goal! Then he would have been the hero and went on to have a lovely life!

Instead, he fell into despair that lasted a lifetime, as proved by the passage of time at the end of the video, with the kicker now an old man, still regretful, still stuck in a moment as he stared at the goalposts.

But now that I’m older, I understand what the true tragedy of the video is.

It’s not him missing the field goal. Screw that field goal. Yes, football is awesome, but at the end of the day … it’s just a game.

No, the real tragedy was how he never recovered.

How his mistake continued to haunt him, how he never moved on, how he allowed it to cripple him for life. What if instead of living in that painful memory, he used his experience as a coach and mentor for young kickers? What if he used his missed field goal as a way to teach others how to recover from defeat?

So on the day of my coulda, woulda, shoulda conversation with my mom, I made a decision: I was not going to stare at my own haunting end goals with remorse and guilt anymore. And yes, the truth remains that I could have done more for my writing career in the past few years.

But what of it?

I’ve also made some amazing memories over the past few years. I’ve gone on wonderful vacations with family and friends. I’ve helped to build an awesome community over at Joyful Miles, I’ve run marathons, had countless laughs with my husband, and raised two fantastic boys, none of which I’d trade for more finished novels on a shelf.

Or like Mom said, I coulda been dead all this time.

Instead, I lived. That, in itself, is something to be grateful for.

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment