My list-making frenzy came out of living a life full of “Haftas.” You know the kind of thing: I have to do laundry tonight before I go to bed.” Or, “I have to get to the grocery store before it closes.” Clearly this was long, long ago, before 24/7 grocery stores.
The underlying message ran along these lines: “Something Awful Will Happen If I Don’t!”
Really? Something Awful? Like:
- On the surface: My kids won’t have clean jeans to wear to school tomorrow and the other kids will make fun of them. Or: We’ll have a blah meal that nobody will eat and all that food will be wasted.
- Down one level: People will think I’m a bad mom and wife. People being my kids, husband, neighbors, complete strangers who see my underfed, poorly clothed children straggling from the bus to the school building.
- At rock bottom: “They won’t love me.” Whoever they are.
Not a pretty scenario, is it?
Well, I learned some things, though I won’t tell you how long it took me to get there:
- Everything doesn’t depend on me. Nor is everything about me.
- Others need to be asked for their help—they’re important people, too.
- Apologize, when necessary.
- Forgive myself for not being perfect. (Still working on this one.)
- Remember what it was like growing up—I had to forgive adults and get on with life.
- Change have to to want to; makes a difference in myself--now the item on my list is not an obligation, it’s a choice.
I have a few other words that have caused me to stumble over and over.
We’ve dealt with Hafta—with its messages of “Time’s running out!” and "You're gonna be in trouble!"
Hafta's sibling, Gotta, never seemed to carry the same urgency. “I gotta get my hair cut, it’s driving me mad.” “We’ve gotta get this house cleaned up. Soon!” Gotta items can stay on my list for quite some time—till I do nearly go round the bend and make an appointment for a hair cut, or company’s coming in an hour and just look at this mess! Some Gottas become Haftas. But I can live with Gotta. For a while.
Shoulda—ah, here’s one that ought to be banned from the English language. Shoulda keeps us living in the past. “I shoulda known there’d be trouble if I took that job.” “We shoulda kept the kids home the night of the party.” And saddest of all—“I shoulda visited my mom/dad/child/friend more often before death came.”
I shoulda known—how? Knowledge comes with experience, our own or that of others who share it with us. If we can’t change what happened, we can try to glean something from the experience to guide us in the future.
We can’t live well with regrets, and that’s what Shoulda invites. Remember when I said I had to forgive myself? That’s not a one-time thing. Take it from me: Forgiving myself—along with forgiving others—is a life-long practice.
I hope you have fewer Haftas, Gottas, and Shouldas in your life. If they get out of hand, make your own list of ways you can change the focus from have to to choose to. I hope it lightens your load.
And have a wonderful week!