A Sorry Yardstick

Regrets? I’ve had a few . . .

By Susan Kelly

Say what you want about the Golden Rule and its cousin, WWJD; file away Ann Landers’ famous chestnut, “Are you better off with or without him/her?” The axiom and adage and aphorism that trumps them all is this one: “How sorry will I be?”

How sorry will I be? applies to nearly every situation where you have to make a choice, a decision, or a judgment call. Watch this.

You’ve got to run to the grocery store for black olives for the taco salad. Your key fob is at the bottom of your bag. Your dry cleaning and a book on tape are the only things in the car. Seriously, who would want them? Why ruin a manicure digging, or waste precious minutes before Jeopardy! rummaging around for your keys to lock the car? Now is the time to ask yourself, how sorry will I be? If someone steals the book, right at the good part? How sorry will I be if someone steals the sweater that I wear every single week?

See? Endlessly applicable.

And again.

It’s Saturday night and you’re on to teach Sunday School at 9 the next day. Loving the convo and the gossip and the giggles. Waiter? Could I please — oh, wait. How sorry will I be if I have a third glass of wine? How sorry will I be if I just skip that funeral? How sorry will I be if I just wait until the next time the recycling truck comes around to take out the bin? How sorry will I be if I don’t shave today?

Granted, much of the motivation behind the question is the lack thereof, i.e., laziness, inertia. But its uses range from the merely mundane to the life-threatening to the existential. How sorry will I be if I postpone signing/renewing this contract/will/passport? How sorry will I be if I agree to this project/promotion? How sorry will I be if I let this relationship carry on even though I have no intention of marrying him/her? How sorry will I be if, just this once, I skip the colonoscopy/mammogram? How sorry will I be if I go to Costco/Best Buy/Trader Joe’s on a Saturday?

Works every time.

In a former life, Susan Kelly published five novels, won some awards, did some teaching, and made a lot of speeches. These days, she’s freelancing and making up for all that time she spent indoors writing novels.

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