sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

If Only… I Loved the Life I Have

By Liz Kitchens September 19, 2023 Lifestyle

I’ve been thinking about all those “if only” expressions used to communicate regret or remorse. I’ve also heard a lot of “what ifs” expressed, indicating anxiety about the future. Both of those prevent us from firmly planning us in the present, which, I suggest, is the meaning of life. Living in the here and now, not in the past or future. 

Once a year a childhood friend and I make a date to talk. In the early ‘80s our talk fests took place on landlines. AT&T had a monopoly back then charging around $20 a month for local calls and between $1.50–$5.00 a month for the telephone rental. And those telephones! Attached to a wall allowing no mobility for the user. A telephone call and a distracted mother provided the perfect opportunity for my toddler to crawl into the freezer. 

Do You Remember Those 1980s Landline Telephones?

It was the long-distance rates that terrified the wallet: over $.50 cents for the first minute and $.30 for each minute thereafter. I still hear the reproach and admonishment in my head from my father and former husband should the phone bill exceed its acceptable limit. 

So, my Vermont friend and I restricted our conversations to once a year on a date that fell between our two birthdays (mine July, hers in September). In the ensuing 30-plus years, our annual conversations have transitioned from stationery to cordless landlines, and on to cell phones with a few FaceTime sessions.

I’m really dating myself with this retrospective of telephone technology (I’m even leaving out the fact we shared a party line with neighbors when I was a child and that my phone number used to be six digits).

But back to my most recent cell phone date with Andrea. Perhaps it was a year’s perspective, but I was struck by how many “if onlys” I heard during this conversation. “If only, I was married…” “If only I had children…” “If only I lived in a small town…” These are refrains I’ve heard from her for years.

They imply she is unhappy with her life, which other aspects of our conversation seem to negate. She is beautiful, smart, funny, and highly social. She has an interesting job as a development director for a small college. She lives in a precious bungalow with her two beloved west highland terriers. In her late 50s, she knows certain longings will probably not be fulfilled. 

Try the “Yes and…” Approach. It’s Transformative!

I changed tactics this year. Rather than adopting an empathetic listening stance, I tried the “Yes and…” approach. “Yes, you chose not to have children with men you deemed unfit for fatherhood, and do you really regret that decision?” “Yes, you live alone and come and go exactly as you please, serve on boards of organizations you care passionately about, and mentor younger women in your field.”

Maybe writing my book, Be Brave. Lose the Beige! Finding Your Sass After Sixty, has made me braver about what life does or does not have to offer. I want to share that feeling of empowerment with others. It’s liberating (and probably obnoxious in some cases).

I sympathize with disappointment. I hate being disappointed. But it is incumbent upon us to adapt. Aging is hard and scary. We, or people we adore, are going to have health scares. We will experience loss. Contending with formerly functioning body parts and figuring out our financial futures is tough. We must transform our “if onlys” to “yes… ands.” 

I just hope after my diatribe, I’ll still have a date with my friend next summer.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you ever get a case of the “if onlys”? What do you wish you had accomplished in your life? What did you get to accomplish instead? When you really think about it, is your regret or your accomplishment more prevalent and worth exploration? Let us know by commenting.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Michael Van ryneveld

This is such an interesting aspect of human nature – that we feel we could’ve made better decisions. Here’s the thing – none of us actively make the wrong decision – about anything. On the contrary – we all try to make the BEST decision we can based on the information at hand, attitudes, and influences at the time. It will turn out that a different decision will have a different outcome, and maybe a better one. But be settled that the best decision was made at the time. If it’s not turning out as hoped, make the change – now.

Liz Kitchens

Such a thoughtful observation. Very comforting. Thank you so much.

Lisa Rice

I like the concept of using yes, and when it is an if only statement. But how do you change the conversation when it is what if all the time? What if the truck blows a tire? What if the education system ends? And on and on… Thanks,

Liz Kitchens

Certainly indicates anxiety and a need for reassurance. Thank you for such a thoughtful question. Merits more discussion.


I love this! Thank you for a new perspective!

Liz Kitchens

Thank you for reading!


I like that! Yes and…. continues your story in some way and if only’s only create dead ends. Thank you!


I learned during a period of reflection on my long life that everything has been a tradeoff. To gain something meaningful, something had to be sacrificed. And so that is how I come to terms with my chosen decisions and how those decisions have shaped my world today. I am finally at a place of peace and contentment which is a good thing!

Liz Kitchens

Thank you so much, Sue!

Liz Kitchens

Yes! It’s like we are still speaking, still possibilities. True, could still lead to dead ends! Thank you, sue.


Truer words never spoken. I am 72, divorced and I can relate. I needed to hear this.

Liz Kitchens

Thank you, Diane. I just turned 70 and it feels true to me too.

The Author

Liz Kitchens is the author of Be Brave. Lose the Beige! Boldly Breaking the Rules after 50. Her blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige! focuses on women of the Baby Boomer Generation, Lady Boomers, as she has dubbed them. Liz is the founder of What’s Next Boomer? a website dedicated to helping Baby Boomers navigate retirement or semi-retirement options. Liz can be contacted at

You Might Also Like