Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My What Ifs

What if.

Two words that trip me up every day. I'm not talking about the good what ifs. I'm talking about the other kind. The kind that make me miss out on life. The kind that make me wonder who I've turned into.

What if we get a hurricane? What if I get sick? What if my car breaks down and I can't find help?

My what ifs quite often swallow me whole. Swollow my life. Swallow me.

It never used to be this way. I have certainly done my share of adventurous things. Ridden in a horse and buggy in Central Park at midnight with an ex-con. Flown to Paris and learned how to maneuver the subways and survive. Driven all night for twelve hours half-asleep.

And those were the safe things.

But somewhere along the way, as I aged, I started counting how many years I had left to live. I started hanging on to them tightly as though I could really control my number of days. And I found myself wanting them to last--safely.

Part of it came from reading too many newspapers, listening to too much news, seeing my daughter move to the other side of the country where I couldn't take care of her anymore, having a grandson born who I couldn't watch grow up, and living in a city where crime is growing as fast as my weeds.

The ladies at my encouragement group on Saturday noticed how often I used my what ifs. They decided to enlist their help even if it meant blindfolding me and making me bungi jump off a bridge.

So today I'm declaring an end to my what ifs.

Because if not, what if I never really lived the life God intended me?

That would be the worst what if of all.


Stephanie Faris said...

Beautifully put! I prefer to focus on the things I can control. For instance, I may not be able to control whether or not an agent picks me up as a client or an editor buys my book, but I can control my writing, my submitting, and my own attitude about all of that. So I set goals based on that. I don't want any "what ifs" that were based on me being too afraid or lazy to go for my dreams.

Janna Qualman said...

A beautiful thought, Terri. Good luck! I wish you well with this.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

What if everything was wonderful and your days were full of blessings???!!!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

hmm. the unknown. the what if. i like to also include the what might have been when i get all zen philosophical. great post...i'm already thinking.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

I used to be a what if and if only person. I think God has helped me to become a different kind of questioner.

Nice post.
~ Wendy

Yolanda said...


May I be right there beside you....doing and being what God intended for me.


Robin @ Be Still and Know said...

Well said!

But then here is what God has to say on the subject...

MT 6:25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

MT 6:28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Amen and Amen!

It is so true and so very difficult to achieve!


Lin said...

good post, I find writing about my what ifs good material and therapy. read Bradbury The Zen of Art of Writing. He says use your life and emotions fears all of it to write about...

Nancy said...

What a great blog. I am still tackling my what ifs. I also was much bolder before I had children. I once was in Paris with a girlfriend and went out to buy a few things by myself. If you knew me, you would know that was daring. My sense of direction could be better. Still it thrills me to believe I did that.

Lazy Writer said...

Hmm...bungi jumping! No way! Great post! I need to get rid of a few "what ifs" myself.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

If you wanna get rid of the "what ifs," I wish you all the best in doing so, and believe that you will. But, before you dump them all, as a writer, you might want to keep the ones you can use, you know, turn them into scenes or novels. So, maybe a compromise approach: Dump those that seem destructive, and keep those that might offer some fodder for your writing.

You can keep these ideas in a free program called PlotCraft. Find the download here. I have it on my computer.

The developer writes: PlotCraft is “CareWare” :-) Simply pay for it by caring enough about the people around you and helping them out whenever they need help. Or just make somebody's day brighter simply by smiling :-) Just pass a helping-hand on and you will find a helping hand when you next need it.

Isn’t that nice? It won’t remake your world or turn you into a Stephen King success story, but it’s a nice little piece of software if you have nothing that works better.

Best Regards, Galen
Imagineering Fiction Blog

Jody Hedlund said...

Great thoughts, Terri! Sounds like you've landed into a wonderful encouragement group of women. So, see you didn't let the "what ifs" stop you from doing that! Maybe you're braver than you give yourself credit for!

Warren Baldwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Warren Baldwin said...

What if we all gave up our fear-based what ifs? That would be a good thing, as you wrote about so well.

What if you wrote a post about this line: "Ridden in a horse and buggy in Central Park at midnight with an ex-con." I'll bet that would be an interesting column, too!

My exp with an excon - I was in sales in college and was visiting on a porch with a man. Two doors down the road I learned police were looking for him for a shoot-out from the night before. Gulp! That was a big "what if" for me.

LisaShaw said...

Well said Terri!

I stand with you in declaring an end to the "what if's". It really hinders our time and purpose.

We serve a BIG GOD and nothing is impossible with Him. When we focus on all the what if's we can't get busy walking in His purpose.

Praying for you...

Love and hugs.

Cindy said...

Oh, good post, Terri! I am a huge "What if?" person. I need to put more prayer time into asking God to help me follow his path more and my path less. Thanks for the reminder.

Katie Ganshert said...

Wow, Terri, that post really hit home with me. Sometimes I'm the queen of what-ifs (not the good kind). I lean toward being a worry-wart. not a good thing. Thanks for the excellent reminder!

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, Terri, good for you.
The Lord actually told me once-- I mean he spoke in my heart-- that whenever I heard "what if" it was not from Him.
He always says "I will," "I am" and "I can."

Melissa Marsh said...

Well said, Terri. At the end of the day, we just have to give it to God.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

Good for you! Declare war on the what ifs.

What ifs are more dangerous than criminals, disease or any other threat. I'm reminded of the servant, who hid his talent in the ground because he feared he would lose it. In the end, he lost it anyway.

Susan :)

Krista Phillips said...

GREAT posts! I find myself slave to the "what-if's" in life too sometimes. But then other times, I think I'm pretty carefree. Hmmmm...

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

A great word, friend! Hold onto those friends of yours. They will give you their wisdom in the season to come.


ginny said...

Oh yeh, we are alike! Those darn "what ifs". I can only say that getting older, those what ifs seem to haunt me more and more. What I NEED to do is trust that God already has got a hold of all of my what ifs and has dealt with them His way. Hang in there and good luck in re-directing your thoughts.
What if you think my comment is dumb?LOL!

Ginger said...

Thank you for writing such a powerful piece. Amazing how such small words can have such an impact on our lives.

Jessica said...

Ha! No wonder people buy your articles. This was really good! I love, love, love those last lines. *contented sigh*

I think this is something we all work through. It helps me to think that God loves me and He has some kind of plan, so I can just take a deep breath and chill. LOL Well, most of the time that helps. :-)

Adios, what-ifs. :-)

BeckyJoie at Leaders in Learning said...

I try not to second guess myself and life's happenings since I spent much of my life doing so. It's not worth it. One day at a time, sweet Jesus!

Sassy Granny ... said...

Oh goodness ... I wish I had all the hours (and forfeited peace) I've spent on "what ifs" over the years. I rarely go there any more because I've learned that 95% of them NEVER happen, and the other 5% rarely happen as I'd envisioned.

Mostly I do my best to live in the now. It doesn't have much space for "what ifs", merely because it's so consumed by "what is". That's more than enough.

Be blessed, my friend. I LOVE your perspectives.


Greg C said...

Me too Terri. I am through with the what if's too. I think I am missing out as well.

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

But, let's say you do what to focus, for whatever reason, on those things that could be but are not (yet). Why is it that only the negatives that come to your mind? There are many kinds of other possibilities: What if you met the most interesting person in your life today? What if you were invited to go to an incredibly beautiful ocean retreat? What if some friend you have helped had a complete turnaround in luck and happiness? And, oh, what the heck, what if you won the lotto?

And finally, what if every time you unconsciously thought of a what if that made you nervous, you deliberately thought about its opposite and positively overwhelmingly unbelievably good what if? And just what if, by thinking that, the positively overwhelmingly unbelievably good thing happened?

(Sorry, I have had a tough life, tougher than most, but I remain an incurable optimist -- and chronically happy. I guess it is because I see only the positive what ifs -- and I am a what iffer par excellence!)

Good luck to you on changing the nature of the what ifs in your life!

Jill Kemerer said...

Who doesn't feel this way? It's hard to ignore the dangers of the world, especially when so many things have gone catiwampous. But, I admire your courage and your vow to move forward.

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

I guess I've done "What Ifs" but I find there's too much speculation and so for the adventures I've lived and loved I find myself asking, "What is?"

Just Be Real said...

"What If's" will get me all the time. Thanks for sharing this post!

Terra said...

You make a good point about the overuse of "what ifs", and that is something I want to stop doing too.
I carry Psalm 91 in my purse.
The KJV begins "I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust."
Lovely words, rather than "what if".