Should Have Done

This is what I should have done this past year.

You asked me to write about what I should have done this year. There are so many, so many things I wish I had done, or at the very least, done differently. The days get past me, and I get caught up in the catching up. The things we love get pushed to the back, and the people we love … well, we do the best we can. We hope.

This is what I should have done this past year.

I should have told my father the truth about why I am angry with him all of the time. I didn’t. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle, facing what was and what is. I have long accepted my newly arranged family, but twinges of anger still stain my cheeks when I can’t find the words.

Finishing my book was important, and I should have paid more attention to detail. It remains undone. I need more chapters, more meat to its poor skeletal structure. I know the words are not hard to find; it’s just that I haven’t been looking. And that’s as honest as I’ve been with myself in months about that situation.

I should have taken shelter from the storms around me instead of waiting them out, weathering them like a fool. I am always so clumsy with my heart. Instead of reaching out for his hand, I should have reached for my own. I didn’t. And I want to blame words for failing me when instead I failed myself. A broken heart, I learned, is not good company during a beautiful summer evening. (They say God helps those who help themselves, and I am trying to be so strong.)

I know I can be a better friend, and I will be a better friend this year.

But I will tell you this. As I think about what I should have done, I realize that I am thankful for what I have done. For the first time, I walked the sandy beaches of Nags Head; for the first time, I saw the blue Appalachian Mountains in all their vast glory. I took Savannah to the boardwalk in Ocean City where we ate pizza, colored on placemats, chased seagulls across the parking lot, and played in the breaking waves. I continued to make my house my home. I learned how to cook pancakes. I fell in love. We went camping and fell asleep beneath a full moon and a dying fire. (Fish jump at all hours of the night.)

My mother and my sister and I found each other all over again, and that means more than anything I’ve said on this page. I went parasailing over the Roanoke Bay, and it was beyond amazing. One of my best friends got married, and she is as happy as she deserves. At the wedding we smiled, and at the reception we danced until the music and champagne ran out. I have laughed and smiled and cried and rested well. And more often than not, I did the right thing.

This past year, I learned that I have to make the best of what I’ve got. I once heard Maya Angelou say something along the lines of “You do the best you can and when you know better, you do better.” I always hope for the best, and you can rest assured that I’m doing my best.

Article © 2005 by Stephanie Fowler