Two little words that have such power to leave you languishing in limbo, stuck between past and future, rather than open to the present.
It’s funny when the present is right here and now, how it can seem so hard to find!
The other day I was busy thinking if only thoughts (as I often keep myself busy), when I decided to stop and analyze the ‘ifs’ and the ‘onlys’. And while I was there, keep an eye out for some of the ‘buts’ and the ‘what ifs’ that usually follow.
If only thoughts fall into two basic categories. Regret thoughts about the past (pity party, guilt trip), and fear thoughts about the future (anxiety fest, false hope). They make bitter and scared bedfellows.
If only X had/hadn’t happened then I (or Y) would be OK/better/much better now.
If only I had/was X then I could do/be Y (but I don’t/am not, so I can’t/aren’t)!
Regret thoughts love to put you back in the thick of past problems, mistakes or missed opportunities and provide (plausible) excuses for why things didn’t work out – plus they fuel the fear thoughts that bad stuff will only happen again.
As I get older I tend to have more regret thoughts that have hardened into (lame) excuses while also spawning fears. Great!
It’s perfectly normal for me to regret infertility (even though I’ve found my way to acceptance and even gratitude about it). But with the addition of those two powerful (disempowering) words – if only – I’ve let it excuse all sorts of things.
If only I hadn’t ‘suffered’ infertility, I’d have a better career now.
If only I (should really say ‘we’) hadn’t suffered infertility our finances would be in better shape now.
If only we hadn’t suffered infertility, our sex life would be better.
If only we hadn’t suffered infertility, I wouldn’t have so much mother guilt.
I could (and do) go on and on.
Infertility is one big fat excuse I apply to gloss over choices I’ve made that might not have been the ‘right’ ones, to excuse my less-than-stellar performance, my mistakes, indifference or plain bad attitude. And mostly to justify my fears.
If only we hadn’t suffered infertility we wouldn’t have spent so much money on treatment (although that was still a choice) and we wouldn’t have had the costs of adoption (again a choice). Sure our finances may have been better, but only if we’d chosen to save and invest rather than spend the money on something else.
‘If onlys’ like to gang up to generate giant excuses, the bigger the better, so that one thing sets off a chain reaction of regrets and fears that provide a huge reason not to change. Because if you are brave enough to try to change, you’ll only regret it!
If only we hadn’t suffered infertility, I’d have been free to make better career choices, and if only I’d been able to make better choices then our finances would surely be better, and my self-esteem and sense of feeling comfortable in life would be better, and so surely my sex life would be too! If only.
Truth is, I can have a better sex life (with hubby’s involvement, preferably!) – I don’t have to wait for work to be better or more meaningful, for our finances to improve or for me to banish every last bit of mother guilt.
Feeling better about myself would help, and a few spare dollars for the odd romantic weekend away wouldn’t go astray (starting with an anniversary night away this week).
Because WHAT IF I hadn’t met this Mr Yang? My life wouldn’t have been anything like the kinda wonderful it has been these last 19 years of marriage (aghh)!
The challenge we face, is to leave regrets (if we must feel them) where they belong – in the past – and to switch those two words around for the future – ONLY IF I do X will I achieve Y. Then act on what you absolutely need to do rather than just asking what if or dreaming if only.
Or better still, just drop the ‘ifs and buts’ altogether, forget about the limitations of ‘only’ and avoid the fearful ‘what ifs’. There are many definitions of achievement, many paths to ‘success’, and many choices along the way.
The only choice we really have to make is to not start with an excuse.
Linking up with the lovely Jess for IBOT.