When I was little, one of the things we got in school was a little book called the “What If” book. The idea was, it had answers to questions “What if I got lost in the mall?” “What if I fall and no one is around to help me?” Basic questions small children might have in situations they are unfamiliar with and simple answers that would make it easy for them to understand what to do in a scary or dangerous situations. The book was there to help you, to give you answers.
Instead, what the book gave me, was questions.
What if your mom accidentally leaves you behind?
My mom wouldn’t leave me behind…but what if she did? I’d never thought about it before.
What if another grown-up you don’t know tries to get you to go with them?
Why would another grown-up want to take me somewhere? Is that kidnapping?
What if some comes into your school and starts yelling and scares you ?
What if, what if, what if…I would read that book at night and quietly scare myself today with scenarios I’d never thought of, helpfully printed for me in friendly pink, blue, and yellow. Suddenly, I’d found dangers. This book was supposed to comfort me with questions I had.
Except, until I read the book…I hadn’t had those questions.
I hadn’t know that, out there, there was something to fear. And then I did. It was still unknown…it was still scary…and now….it had faces…strangers…being left behind of lost…hurt…and the friendly book had advice like “Waiting for help to arrive.” or “Go get an adult and tell them.” But see, the book had already contradicted itself because there might not BE an adult.
That was scariest of all.
Now I’m an adult. And what scares me most? The unknown. Not knowing what to do. The bigger what ifs. Living your life in fear, is no way to live. Its terrible and stressful.
And that’s how I’d been living the last few months. Fear of losing people I loved. Fear of death. Fear of change. Fear of everything. I just cannot live like that any more. Its like life had turned into a giant “What If” book and everywhere I turned where questions with no answers. What if this relationship fails? What if I can’t afford to pay a bill? What if the dog doesn’t get better? What if my grandmother’s memory gets worse? What if my parents health suffers? What if my friends don’t want me around any more? What if I can’t get this big project done at work? What if I lose faith? What if I just can’t DO all of this any more.
And there is no little book of answers in friendly pink text.
There is no finding an adult.
Because the dirty secret. Everyone’s fear. We’re the adults now.
We don’t have the answers.
We all have these What If’s running around in our heads.
And after a long and dark month of the deepest depression I’ve ever felt I said.
So freakin’ what.
If a relationship fails. You make new ones.
You can’t afford to pay a bill? Get an extension and plan better next time.
The dog’s sick? Take him to the vet.
Grandmother’s memory gets worse? Help her however you can and pray.
Parent’s health suffering? Try to make things easier for them.
Friend trouble? Start by being a good friend. The rest will fall into place.
Trouble on a work project? Get help. People will help you.
Losing faith? Go back to its source. Go to other sources. Write and talk about it. You’ll find it again.
Want to give up?
Take a breath. And let the fears, let the what if’s run themselves ragged. Because you’re better than that. Find little joys in pictures you take and books you read. Love the people around you more and better. Be an example. Smile, even if you feel like you can’t. Eventually, it’ll feel the way its supposed to.
Be scared. But don’t let it control you. Ask the questions, but if you don’t like the answer? Find new answers.
Make the unknown, known. Because the shapes and shadows are only scary in the dark…once you shed light on them, you’ll see it was nothing to worry about at all.
This is the end of October. The fears are gone. In November, let’s bring in the light.