There have been times when I woulda and coulda and definitely shoulda

Ogden Nash stampPortrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
By Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
   and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
   Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
   in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don’t bother your head about the sins of commission because
   however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be
   committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the checks you haven’t added up
   the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you
   haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
   time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
   of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven’t done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the
   unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
   sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

Forgive the long poetic intro but the theme here works better if you get the whole Ogden Nash thought on the matter.

And the ‘matter’ is, in this case, that you cannot go to the past and ‘undo’ some of the reprehensible things you might have done, or not done. And it’s the ‘not done’ ones that can distress a body.

The thought came about due to an email from a friend in which we were looking at the merits and the singular lack of merit on the part of the central characters in Mad Men.

Mad Men is, just in case you’ve been off in a convent or monastery for a while, a show that revolves around the advertising racket with a retro view. And the thought that came to me is that my ex-wife was in newspaper advertising sales. And, not to put too fine a point on it, she hated the fucking business. But she had, especially before we were together and again after we parted a daughter to feed and put through school. And she was (and is) a mighty tough broad and she did what was necessary.

In retrospect I admire the hell out of that. But, did I express sympathy and caring about the soul-destroying aspects of her job when we were together? Did I really understand how she often had to sell out who she was and what she believed? I confess, sadly, that I did not. At least I did not anywhere near as much as I should have. While she didn’t move in the echelons of MM the process was similar which is, basically: convincing some rube that he or she should buy a certain bit of goods or, in her case, service so that their business would prosper.

She hated it because she had to deal so much in, if not boldfaced lies, then at least exaggerations and ‘maybes’.

I don’t know if my being all simpatico would have made her life easier, but it wouldn’t have hurt. Just one of those sins of omission.

There are others. I don’t lie awake and agonize about them, for what is ‘undone’ is undone, but perhaps the thoughts might be guides for future behaviors.

I wish, looking back, I had:

–         taken the time for a long heart-to-heart with my father prior to his demise. A little late for that now.

–         Played the field much more when I was young rather than getting married for the first time when I did. Would have saved a lot of bother later.

–         Been braver with my writing at an earlier age.

–         Taken up the offer of an editorship by a major newspaper publishing company when I was given it rather than letting cowardice, lack of self-confidence and a desire to just stay put influence me. Move, me bucko. I know people who can throw caution to the winds and I admire the hell out of them.

–         Believed in myself more rather than following the impressions of others and believing them.

–         Left my first wife in the Munich railway station back many years and taken off with the gorgeous young thing with Bardot lips with whom I got onto conversation on the platform while my wife was in the bathroom, and who was traveling solo and wondered if I wanted to join her. “Yes please,” was the thought that crossed my mind. But, I was a little too honorable for that. OK, I wouldn’t have done that but the idea did put me in mind of Frost’s The Road Not Taken. What would my life have been like if I had?

I could go on and on with this but shall refrain. But be it advised that sins of commission are much more fun and can leave exquisite memories rather than guilt.


8 responses to “There have been times when I woulda and coulda and definitely shoulda

  1. I’m off to look for something sinful to enjoy….

  2. Dad drilled it into our heads very early on that we would be more likely to regret things we did not do as compared to things we did. I think by having this taught to me so early and with such might (apparently Dad had regrets of the not done), that I was very careful not to miss opportunites. I have actually, from a pretty young age weighed many decisions by asking myself, “Will I look back and regret that I did not do this?” I guess I was lucky – no, I WAS lucky that I had the Dad I had.

  3. There are so many conversations I could replay and wish for a do-over. So many decisions I wish I had made differently. Interestingly enough, I have been considering a blog about this very thing. Perhaps it is spring causing us to look back a bit…? Who the hell knows. Luckily, in terms of behavior, there is only one night that makes my stomach tight with embarrassment any longer, so that’s not too bad.

    FWIW, I had heart-to-hearts with my dad. Regularly. Still wish for one more. 😉

    • Only one night, my dear? You are blessed. I have too many of those. No more, but I did. I tried a few times with my dad but it never really panned out. I should have tried harder.

  4. I’m in Helen’s camp. I am still in the wanting to enjoy the sinful things. I don’t have many regrets. I chalk it up to experience and learning, and believe that everything is ultimately accurate. I can think of a few of my sins of commission that I would love to have an instant replay on.

  5. I am a bit late in reading this but I can tell you that I have done things on a whim which I did not particularly regret, only I was sad that my actions had caused pain to others. Some of those things were great fun and I would do them again, if only a bit differently so the ripples did not drown others. Just think of the chaos leaving your wife at that train station might have caused, oh my!

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