Photographs by Meadow Linn

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good Riddance to “If Only…”

Unfortunately, I’m a card-carrying member of the “If Only” club, but I’m working to change that.

Recently I went camping with friends at Yosemite National Park. We climbed mountains, explored meadows, and ate our way through the piles of food that we carefully stored in the bear locker each night.

As I was heading home, however, I decided on a whim to stop at a vista to take one final photograph. I pulled off the road and wedged my car into the last spot available. Thinking that I could make room for another car, I attempted to reverse but heard a terrible scraping sound. I put my brand-spanking new Subaru Outback in park, and with a tightness working itself around my heart, hopped out to inspect. When I saw the huge gouges and the busted fog light, I admit that a few loud expletives escaped my mouth.

Doing my best to keep my lip from quivering, I found a nearby tourist to help me dislodge my car from the rock I had scraped. Like rapid-fire, I spewed the story to him, but it turned out he didn’t speak English. Nevertheless, he agreed to help me. Once free of the rock, I hightailed it out of Yosemite.

I spent the next six hours of the drive home playing the “If Only” game. If only I hadn’t stopped at that particular viewpoint… If only I had followed my intuition and stayed on the road rather than trying to get a photo of Half Dome… If only I hadn’t been trying to leave a space for another car… If only my friends—just the day before—hadn’t been badmouthing people who seemingly take up too much room in parking lots… If only I had seen the rock… If only I hadn’t gone camping… If only… The list goes on and on. I wanted to blame someone or something and make it their fault. I wanted them to be responsible.

But the truth is: I hit a rock and my new car got dented and scratched. Playing the “If Only” game didn’t serve me. It wouldn’t fix my car or make me feel any better about the situation. What’s done was done, and I needed to move on.

Until that moment, I’d never realized how attached I was to the “if onlys” and how overwhelming my desire was to pin blame on someone or something else. Though it took many hours, I eventually realized that I could either continue to stew and let the accident take over my thoughts and perhaps even cloud the wonderful memories I’d made camping, or I could let it go.

I decided that I didn’t want this unfortunate incident to overshadow the smell of cedar smoke from the campfire, the wind on my face at the top of Lembert Dome, the crystalline water flowing in Tuolomne Meadows, or all of the delicious meals I shared with good friends, which included my perennial favorite treat of juicy red watermelon with fresh mint.

While I’m still sad about my car, and though repairs won’t be cheap, it can be fixed. The memories I want to savor are the ones that fill me with joy. From this point forward, I’m going to ditch “if only” and embrace “now what.” Asking the question, “now what?” will help me focus on positive actions that can be taken rather than looking backward and wishing things were different.

If, like me, you’ve been a card-carrying member of the “If Only” club, I encourage you to join me in accepting what is and move on. Here’s to ditching “if only”!


Watermelon with Mint

This is a recipe-less recipe, but those are some of my favorite kinds of recipes! There’s something about the mint that seems to bring out the natural sweetness in watermelon.

Combine watermelon (either cut into bite-sized pieces or scooped into spheres with a melon baller) with chopped fresh mint. Enjoy with your fingers or with a fork. This is a great fruit salad for picnics and camping.

If you want to turn it up a notch, add rum and make it into a delicious watermelon boozy slushy.

Makes 2 large drinks
or 4 small ones

2 cups cut watermelon
2 tbs. chopped fresh mint
1 tbs. sugar
¼ cup (2 oz.) rum
2 cups ice

Use a blender on the highest setting until the ice is slushy.

This makes a refreshing and light summer cocktail. These quantities are guidelines. Try adding more rum and watermelon to intensify the flavor (and the kick!).


  1. Yes, the if only trap - I love your plan to make it "what now" - thanks for posting your thoughts - very inspiring.

  2. Wonderful story. One of my friends says he knows this woman who used to get obsessed every time she had a new car, to park far, not get dinged, etc. It was taking over her life--so now whenever my friend's friend gets a new car, she ceremoniously takes this tiny little hammer (probably like the jewelers use) and hits the side of her car. Then she doesn't worry any more about what might happen (which is the other, future oriented, side of the "if only it didn't happen" past musing...) So consider your new car initiated so you no longer have to worry about what might happen as the first mishap for your car!