The curse of the ‘almost’…

Have you ever pondered about the things in your life that could have been but never were. I don’t mean those distant dreams we all have but never actually get to do anything about. Maybe we see such dreams for what they are, and perhaps somewhere we accept that they were never a real possibility anyway.

I’m talking about the many things we actually start, but give up somewhere along the way. Although the level of frustration is perhaps greater if we give up when we’re just about to get there, anything between the beginning and just before the end belongs to the realm of the ‘almost’. And some of these ‘almosts’ will come back to haunt us, to reinforce the tyranny of ‘shoulds’ and ‘if onlys’ that can make our poor soul become stuck in a rut.

We all have unfinished businesses in life. Perhaps life is in itself an unfinished business. But without giving in to the illusion of completeness, some of us find ourselves perpetuating a state of ‘almost’, thus living a full on half-hearted life. Living in the ‘almost’ will most likely impoverish us and bury us under a cycle of beginnings with no ends. Life then could become an open wound that won’t heal on its own.

On my first post on this blog I wrote about the principle of being constant, of actually getting on with what we set out to do, persevering until the end. I wanted to complement it with an amazing short essay I came across, written by a clever Brazilian author called Sarah Westphal, which I took the liberty of translating. I hope you enjoy!


The almost – Sarah Westphal

Even worse than the conviction of the ‘no’ and the uncertainty of the ‘maybe’, is the disillusion of the ‘almost’. 

It’s the almost that annoys me, that saddens me, that kills me by bringing all that could have been but wasn’t. 

Who almost won is still playing, who almost passed is still studying, who almost died is still alive, who almost loved has never loved.

Just think about the opportunities that have slipped through the fingers, the chances that were lost because of fear, the ideas that will never leave the paper because of this damn habit of living in the autumn.

I sometimes ask myself what makes us choose a lukewarm life; no, it’s not that I ask, I dispute. The answer I know by heart, it’s stamped on the distance and coldness of smiles, the looseness of embraces, the indifference of almost whispered ‘hellos’. There’s an abundance of cowardice and a lacking of courage even to be happy.

Passion burns, love maddens, desire betrays. Maybe these could be good reasons to choose between happiness and the pain, to feel nothing. But they are not. If there was virtue in mediocrity, the sea wouldn’t have waves, days would be cloudy and the rainbow would display shades of grey.

The ‘nothing’ does not enlighten, it doesn’t inspire, it doesn’t afflict nor it soothes, it just amplifies the emptiness that we all carry within ourselves.

It’s not that faith can move the mountains, nor that all the stars are within our reach, for we have to be patient with the things that can’t be changed. However, to choose the preemptive defeat over the doubt of victory is to waste the opportunity of deserving.

For the mistakes there is forgiveness; for the defeats, chance; for the impossible love, time. It does no good to protect an empty heart or to spare the soul. A romance that ends instantaneously and painlessly is not a romance.

Don’t let the nostalgia suffocate you, or the routine comfort you, or the fear stop you from trying.

Don’t trust fate and believe in yourself. Spend more time doing rather than dreaming, living rather than waiting, because even though who almost died is still alive, who almost lives is already dead.




Allan Gois – Psychotherapist in Bloomsbury (WC1)Psychotherapy for Depression in London