After my husband Ray died, I developed an illness that I refer to as the Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda” sickness. I believe that the cure for this disease is a pill I call Forgiveness.
At first, I thought this was a bitter pill that I did not want to take because holding onto “my stuff” was, after all, part of my pain and my identity. That is to say … my identity in that to some people I was no longer Cathy; I was now “poor Cathy”. My pain felt familiar and safe. If I let it go then I would have to face the reality of life without Ray and, more importantly, the identity of my life – again not as Cathy, but as “Ray and Cathy.”
MY would of, could of and should of’s involved a list of situations about which I constantly questioned myself. For example: (1) WOULD Ray have had a better chance of survival, IF I had gotten him to the hospital sooner? (2) COULD I have done a better job caring for him? and (3) SHOULD I have waited longer before taking him off the ventilator?
The world of Cathy was scary to me. Decisions that had been made as part of my “Ray and Cathy” identity could always be excused because it wasn’t really on my shoulders, if it didn’t work out. It was on the shoulders of Ray and Cathy, which was an identity I frequently hid behind. Additionally, decisions made as “poor Cathy” could be excused because it wasn’t really me that decided. It was the struggling, difficult, life’s unfair me that had to make the difficult choices and decisions.
Yet, in spite of all the labels I knew I could assign to myself in order to excuse or justify the choices I made – especially the choices that by their nature invited second guessing and judgment, not just from myself but also from others, I knew those choices were mine to own! I couldn’t hide from the reality that these were not Ray and Cathy choices but mine alone because for many of them Ray was too sick to be able to choose. It was on my shoulders. And I always knew that any excuses of choices made by the “poor Cathy” me were just that – excuses! The choices were and are mine and mine alone.
As time has passed, I have come to realize that forgiving myself is the key to moving forward. I now realize I did the best I knew how to do at the time.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but that’s just what it is – hindsight. No matter how badly we want to go back so that we may act or choose differently with the new information we possess, we can’t. We really only have the moment in which we are living now, and that moment is what leads us into the future. And we get to choose what our future will look like.
So, here’s the question I ask you to ponder today: Will you choose a future that is filled with regret and remorse OR are you willing to choose one in which you forgive and release the past in order to move into your future with hope, joy and grace? I know that more and more I’m learning and choosing forgiveness and freedom over the prison of judgement. What choices are you making?