The Evolution of "What If"
“What if” seemed to be my never-ending story. “What if” I don't make it to the plane on time and “What if” I forgot something? “What if” the kids need something or “What if” I forgot to pay a bill? “What if” the rental car breaks down? “What if” I miss a phone call? “What if” the kids’ car breaks down? “What if” I forget my driver’s license? “What if” I forget an appointment? “What if” the kids get sick? “What if” no one likes my food? “What if” my cookies suck? Wait … seriously, I rock chocolate chip cookies so why would I ever let a “What if” sneak into that thought? “What if” my husband doesn't like the hotel? “What if” we have a bad meal, “What if” “What if,” “What if?”
“What if” usually started with a gasp, and I don’t mean the good kind that results from excitement or amusement. It’s more of an oxygen-starved wide-eyed gasp, and the beginning of what could be a quick hyperventilation fit.
Thank goodness for running. Running cured me of hyperventilation. I learned that breathing is important if you want to make it around a three-mile lake without dying. Now, “What if” is on its’ last leg, last thread, last heartbeat, last gasp like a horror movie, suffocating on its own blood.
My life with “What if” was consuming, embarrassing, and frankly, just fucking exhausting. The question of “What if” has delayed the start of vacations, and cut short vacations. “What if” has woken me at night. “What if” caused me to fluster. “What if” kept me from remembering the important things and it distracted me from my surroundings. “What if” kept me from being present. I speak of “What if” as if it were a person, a living human being.
Honestly, I'm surprised I never named “What if.” I will confidently admit I'm glad I never did. Humanizing “What if” leans my spirit in the direction of acceptance and after forty years of “What if,” I still don't want to accept it. But, over time, learning to breathe through the “What ifs” shifted them to something new.
Did I say goodbye to “What if” like a bad relationship? I suppose. Historically, letting go of bad relationships was a bit of a process for me and a slow one at that. Something inside of me had to quietly and inefficiently package up the bad relationship and throw it away. Frankly, I have no more energy for that ugly process.
This new “What if” turns into something different. It’s now something real and something productive. I won't kid you; it’s been tears, a few loud exclamations of “fuck!” and “shit!” a lot of dog walking, random writing rants, talking to myself ...out loud, listening to music, a podcast or wandering around social media like it was a rainy day. It sure hasn’t been easy but it feels so good to do everything I can to quickly acknowledge and even more quickly throw “What if” out of my imaginary thirtieth floor window.
Somedays it feels as if I didn’t throw “What if” out of my life quite soon or hard enough to break through what appears to be plexiglas. The window only appears shattered and not quite broken. Regardless, each day is a day committed to doing exactly what I did the day before, throwing “What if” out the window knowing it will eventually shatter the glass and land in the big black hole, that hole six feet under. Damn right I dug that hole. It made me angry, pissed me off, made me sweat, and made my back hurt. I swore a few times but fuck, it felt good!
As time passes, the “What if” hole, that was once a dark empty space, fills with peace, calm, the joy of music, tears of healing, deep breaths of calm, ah-ha moments, genuine and pure thoughts of love for moments missed and every once in a while I find space to be me. The new space has allowed me to creep up on “What if’s” cousins, “Should have” and “Could have” but I’m working on making friends with them as I see the possibility of nicknaming them “I shall” and “I can.”
Could it be that anxiety never leaves us? Probably, but every day I wake up and say, “I’m not anxiety, I’m Stacy. Today I will do the best I can and be my best self. Today I will remember to breathe and remember that I don’t control everything, nor will I try.” Some days I cry as I say it. I am crying now as I admit each day is not easy; yet each day is better than the day before. The vulnerability overcomes me yet refreshes my soul.
I don’t want to be exhausted anymore. I want to be free; free of the illusion of control that has consumed me far too long. I want my vacations back; I want my free time back, and I want my journey to be filled with more self-love. It is through my journey in self-love that I promise to do better for me by saying yes to “Possibility” and no to “What if.”
Are you ready to banish the words "What if" from your vocabulary? Join our Catalyst Coaching Intensive.