If Wishes were Horses, Beggars would Ride

For March, we’re talking about “If Only I’d Known.” I’m excited to see what our fab Mysteristas have to say about this theme, although I’m a bit challenged by it myself. However, I found inspiration this morning from my mom. My mother, as a middle school educator, is full of funny and poignant quotes. “If wishes were horses…” was always a favorite, and one that sticks with me. It took a few years for me to really understand what she meant, this idea that you can’t simply wish for things; you have to make things happen (and that usually means work, effort, and patience).

During the past few years, I’ve embarked on a purposeful journey to reduce the baggage I carry with me. In a practical sense, that means I try not to carry anything around that isn’t absolutely necessary, which includes regrets and a certain amount of hindsight, in addition to physical objects.  This weekend, I re-arranged my kitchen. Part of that exercise included reducing the number of coffee mugs (we don’t drink coffee) and shot glasses (we don’t do shots, either) living in the space. I’ve kept them over the years, moving them from apartment to apartment, rented house to owned house, as they served as placeholders for certain memories. The K-State shot glass from one of my first conferences as a presenter, as a graduate student, the coffee mug my parents bought for me when I was young with my name on it, and others provide sweet reminders of past moments. But, do I need the tchotchkes to have the memories? Perhaps not as many. Plus, these things need space and have to be dusted! (The dusting is a deal-breaker. I hate dusting.)

Likewise, I am actively refusing to carry regret. I can’t change the past, I can only learn from it. Wishing for something to happen or be true doesn’t make it so. Beating myself up for choices I’ve made isn’t helpful, productive, or healthy. Instead, I’m trying to own my decisions, good, bad, and ugly. It’s a process, for sure. But, I find that I get stronger the more I practice it; this exercise definitely adds tone and definition to my psyche! However, the lessons I’ve learned are invaluable. Carrying the lessons, but not the emotional baggage, is the tricky balance I’m still working to achieve.

So, what do I wish I’d known sooner? That confidence comes from within. If I don’t believe, no one else will, either. That it’s okay to invest in myself and the things that make me happy, like writing time. Revision is work, but the rewards are worth it. Wishing my novel complete won’t make it happen; butt in chair, fingers on keys is what needs to happen. I’ve learned it’s okay to change my mind, and that doesn’t mean I’ve failed, only that I’ve learned the lesson, and I’m smart enough to move on to the next one. That famous authors are real people, and almost universally kind; they love readers, and are happy to speak with fledgling writers. Use those opportunities!

What do you wish you’d known? What things might have changed?

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Author: Pamela A. Oberg

Pamela is a portfolio manager at an educational assessment company by day, writer by night. Founder of Writers on Words (a discussion and critique group), Pamela enjoys spinning tales of murder and mayhem, with an occasional foray into the world of the paranormal.

8 thoughts on “If Wishes were Horses, Beggars would Ride”

  1. I’m pretty good about getting rid of stuff (coffee mugs – geez, we have a million and although The Hubby drinks coffee, I drink tea and we all drink hot chocolate, really do we need five million mugs?). But I applaud your determination to get rid of regrets. So much harder than stuff.

    I’d wish I’d known something doesn’t have to be perfect – including me. There are so many things I might have at least tried except for thinking, “I’ll never get that perfect so why bother?”

  2. Great post, Pam! I’m stumped. I can’t think of anything I wished I had known. I would probably done everything exactly the way I did it, even if I had known. Sometimes, for me, doing something even, if the result doesn’t pan out, is the right thing to do.

  3. Keenan, I love it! I’ve learned so much by having things not work out, which in turn has allowed me to make other, better choices. Everything builds, I think. If I haven’t fallen down, I suspect I haven’t challenged myself enough.

  4. I love this post so much. I saw a meme recently that said something like, “I’ll either succeed or I’ll learn” and I thought that was so true. There’s really no failure in our journeys. We either get it right the first time, or we figure out a better way to do it the next time. And maybe that’s what I wish I’d known sooner, not to be afraid of that learning process. To know that it’s not failure; it’s a process.

    Like you, I had a cathartic purge of my kitchen when our last little birdie left the nest. We simply didn’t need all the cookware and accoutrements to feed a family of five anymore. It felt good. Like a baptism, a new beginning. And in keeping with the theme, something I hadn’t known until we were all older.

  5. This is such a great post to kick off this month’s theme, Pamela! I love the idea of letting go of regret. That’s something I could definitely work on. I enjoy purging items; it always feels so refreshing, although I have gotten rid of stuff I wish I’d held onto. Luckily, my husband is a packrat so we balance each other out 🙂

  6. Awesome lessons here! To answer your questions would require a post, but to sum up, I’d say that I wish I hadn’t been so hard on myself.

    Are coffee mugs like tribbles? I have too many, too, and divide them up by season. My out of season mugs live in boxes in the basement.

  7. I heart this post so much!

    At lunch today, I finished reading a terrific S/F by Blake Crouch, who’s written so many books I’ve enjoyed. DARK MATTER: A Novel, surrounds the theory that every change we make takes us down a different path and by going there we create alternate universes.

    A good friend of mine just died. Would she have changed anything in her life had she known? I venture to say not one damn thing.

    Even with regrets, I can’t see myself changing anything either. And man, I sure don’t want to know what’s gonna happen next. I’ll dance or I’ll cry… either way, I’ll be taking a step forward.

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