Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda

Jewish T-shirt collage
T-Shirt Collage

Have you lived life with regret? Have you experienced the feeling of “coulda, woulda,
shoulda”? Have your feelings of regret caused you to miss the blessings of the present

In the past, I often found myself consumed with regret and disappointment, focusing on what should, could or would have been. In business, I would think about a profitable opportunity I didn’t pursue. With my family, I would regret losing my temper or missing a family function due to business travel. Socially, I would think about who didn’t come to our party. Personally, I often wished I made healthier choices: late night pizza tasted good, but it certainly was not a prudent long-term healthy choice. Thinking about all of these issues, I always woke up with pangs of regret in the morning, looking ahead or reflecting  on the past. I simply was not living in the present.

I truly began living in the moment during a 40-day long, doctor prescribed bed rest due to significant injury (For more on this please view my TED talk and read my blog). I was forced to slow down, even totally stop. I laid on my back for 23 hours a day for 40 days. I didn’t do any work. I didn’t watch any tv or movies. I simply read, wrote, and meditated. This experience totally changed my perspective. I  began to really experience simple pleasures, enjoying one spoonful of dessert instead of eating the entire piece – both literally and figuratively (See “How One Small Bite is More Than Enough to Fill Your Stomach and Feed Your Soul”). It was my “reset” moment.

Regret is a truly distracting feeling that prevents us from experiencing what’s right in front of us, in the present moment and experiencing dayenu. Dayenu is the simple act of acknowledging and expressing gratitude in the moment. Being grateful to God for manna from heaven while the Israelites wandered in the wilderness. A simple dinner with my daughters. Appreciating the ability to stand on my own and take a shower without assistance after six months in a cast. Watching the clouds move and listening to the rustling of the leaves in the wind has become a favorite summer pastime. I learned to notice and appreciate the simple moments of life.

I looked to the Torah to explore the concept of regret. In Genesis 6:6, God expressed regret for making mankind. And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart. The Bible rarely speaks of God experiencing “regret.” The Hebrew word used here is yin’nā’hem, from the root word nacham. The word is exclusively about emotions: a feeling of pain, sadness, or unhappiness. As a result, God did a total reset of earth with a devastating flood. Noah followed God’s wishes to rebuild the world’s life with the ark holding the seeds of the world’s species. After the flood, God promised never to flood the world again. In Genesis 9:13, God made his covenant with Noah. My rainbow I have placed in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Myself and the earth. The rainbow is the sign that God will never again destroy the earth.

What “flood” would signify your reset and stop you from living with regret? What proverbial rainbow would remind you to live in the moment and express dayenu?

In an effort to memorialize the end of living life with the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” attitude, I have created a line of t-shirts to inspire people to truly live in the moment. The t-shirts celebrate many Jewish ritual moments. And, in Breaking Matzo’s inclusionary spirit, I have incorporated other faiths and spiritual practices.

I hope you can stop living your life with “shoulda, coulda, woulda”, and begin anew with “shoulda, coulda, dayenu!”