Who doesn’t wish they could turn back time? A hurtful comment, made in the heat of the moment…making fun of someone we didn’t realise was standing right behind us…deciding to go — or to stay — and later realising we’d made the wrong call…
There’s probably not a person alive who hasn’t wished they could jump into a time machine and go back to some point before they said or did something stupid so they could handle the situation differently.
But life’s unkind. It rolls on, whether you want it to or not. You don’t get to wind the tape back and start over.
Still, at least Cher got a hit record out of it…
“If I Could Turn Back Time” was written by the great Diane Warren, who also wrote “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” for Aerosmith, “I’d Lie For You (And That’s A Fact)” for Meat Loaf and “Can’t Fight The Moonlight” for LeAnn Rimes. With nine Billboard Number Ones and 32 Billboard Top 10 records, Diane Warren knows a thing or two about writing a great song.
So, of course, Diane Warren hit the mark once again back in 1989 when she sat down to write “If I Could Turn Back Time” for Cher.
If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I’d take back those words that hurt you
And you’d stay
Tricky things, words. After they’re said, they’re very difficult to un-say.
Once you’ve heard that you’re not good enough for them, or that they’ve found someone else, or that they’re going to spend the rest of their life just pretending you don’t exist any more…it’s hard to un-hear what’s been said.
After a while, maybe you can forgive them. But that’s hard.
It’s not like they forgot you don’t take sugar in your coffee or something easily rectified.
Once something’s said which goes right into your soul, stifling your dreams and crushing your hopes for the future, that’s a lot harder to put right.
More often than not it never is.
You might stay together. You might choose to put your kids first and keep quiet, no matter the personal cost to you. You might not have any other options, and force yourself to swallow your feelings to keep a roof over your head and food in your belly.
There are many things you can do, many trade-offs you can make, many stories you can tell yourself about why staying put was the right thing to do. But what you can’t do is go back in time and stop those words ever being said.
Words are like weapons, they wound sometimes
I didn’t really mean to hurt you
I didn’t want to see you go
I know I made you cry
Trouble is, everyone gets hurt in this scenario. Nobody gets a free pass.
When you’re the one doing the hurting, sometimes after a few weeks you come to realise your words or deeds impacted on you too. Perhaps in the long term, that hurts a lot more than the momentary sense of self-satisfaction you got from being hurtful in the first place.
And you need to live with the growing realisation that you hurt someone who cared for you. They might have been imperfect…although who among us isn’t…but as long as they weren’t hurting you and their failures were brought about by misjudgement rather than malice, perhaps you went too far.
Maybe, in the long run, they’ve flourished without you and you come to realise you’d been holding them back all along and not, as you thought at the time, the other way round.
Maybe they’ve found the perfect person for them since that fateful day and you’re still looking, with no sign of anyone coming your way any time soon.
Maybe you’ve taken up with someone who behaves towards you the way you used to behave towards them and it’s made you realise just what that’s like to be on the receiving end.
Karma can be like that sometimes…
My world was shattered, I was torn apart
Like someone took a knife and drove it deep in my heart
You walk out that door I swore that I didn’t care
But I lost everything, darling, then and there
Too strong to tell you I was sorry
Too proud to tell you I was wrong
I know that I was blind
That’s often the way if goes. By the time you realise you screwed up, it’s too late to put it right.
You can’t un-say what you said. They can’t un-hear what they heard. The cards fall as they may.
So if you’re tempted to “let rip” and tell someone what you really think, just pause for a moment.
If someone is physically or mentally abusing you, say what you like because the sooner they’re out your life the better.
But for everything else…if it’s just a different perspective on life, or someone who sees things differently to you, or prioritises things you’re not particularly interested in, it’s almost certainly counter-productive to give someone both barrels on something that just boils down to a different view of the world.
Talk it out. Try to understand their perspective as well as your own.
And ask yourself if you know they love you and that, deep down, you love them too.
If the answer’s “yes”, then just let whatever it is wash over you.
You don’t need to be right all the time. And you certainly don’t need to prove them wrong at every turn.
You got together because they brought with them some quality you don’t have. That’s how genetics and the laws of human attraction work. It’s a message from the universe that this is something you need to complete yourself and your place in the world.
So try celebrating your differences instead. Otherwise, sooner or later, you’ll be in one of those situations where you say something you wish you hadn’t and in a few seconds you’ll have destroyed the best thing in your life.
Cher and the crew of the USS Missouri make that look like a lot more fun than it really is. Take it from me, having someone bring you to your knees through the things they say or do is never fun. But sometimes that’s life.
Here’s Cher (and a lot of very happy-looking sailors) with another hit tune from the Diane Warren songbook, “If I Could Turn Back Time”…
PS — just before we get to the video, if you enjoyed this article, please give it a “clap”…or even more than one if you’re feeling kind. You can also follow me on Medium (here) or Twitter (here) to get new articles as soon as they’re published. And why not check out my book “No Words, No Song”, where I write about more great songs like this one, available in the Kindle Bookstore (here).