Reflections: Coulda Shoulda Woulda

Coulda Shoulda Woulda
By William L. Bulla
Weekly Contributing Writer

As we move forward in the New Year, we can reflect on issues that we faced in the past year which required our decisions and actions. For some of these we may have had time to plan, but others may have been dilemmas requiring immediate attention. After we have decided, and took what we considered appropriate action at that time, we are often overcome by the question "Did I do the right thing?"
Often, after the situation is over, you realize a number of options you could have, or should have, taken instead of the action you actually took. Maybe you get upset because something bad happened and you feel like you are partly to blame because you let it happen. Often it's not even true that you could have changed the course of events anyway. Those words are an expression of "wishful thinking." They are used to indicate what could have, would have, or should have happened if what actually happened was different.
As we look back over our lives, there may be times when we find ourselves pondering "I coulda shoulda woulda" about some episode that may have changed our, or some other person's, lifestyle. I have also heard it expressed as "woulda coulda shoulda" and "shoulda coulda woulda". The expression is actually an informal rendering of three conditions: would have, could have and should have. In any order we use these three words, they mean the same thing. They express a feeling of regret or second-guessing of action taken, or failed to be taken, during some episode in one's life. For many people, there is a clear difference between what actually happened and what one wishes would have happened in a given situation. Exploring other possible responses after the fact is not always a bad idea. Unfortunately, one often must make the best decision possible under the circumstances and leave the second-guessing and rehashing for another time. Sometimes a better course of action, or a more informed decision, is only discovered after the fact.
So, as you reflect on these past issues, what can you do? You give a big sigh, utter "coulda woulda shoulda..." (meaning there's nothing you can do about it now, it's too late) and you put the issue aside until another day when some episode will trigger your mind to experience another "woulda, coulda, shoulda" moment.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.