Yesterday, I talked about life's what-ifs - the big, generally negative questions we often ask ourselves and whose answers convince us that "nothing" is the wise thing to do. And I told you that I'm changing my what-if and it's making all the difference.
Here's the thing: there are a lot of people who subscribe to the worst-case-scenario theory. That is, you should play out your what-ifs in your mind to their most devastating possible conclusion, then come to terms with that potentiality and figure out how you could still be ok if such a thing were to actually happen. You work yourself downward until you realize that the bottom is not so terrible as it seems, and this is somehow supposed to encourage you to go for it.
There is a place for that, in some situations. There is great value, I believe, in always evaluating your definition of ok. I've been there. It's a cool moment when it finally clicks in your heart, if not also in your head, that even if it doesn't seem you'd be ok, you'll be ok. Even if it's not, it still is. Even if it's bad, it's still livable.
The problem with this line of thinking is that it still keeps you focused on the negative. We're focused on the questions. We're focused on impending doom. We're bracing ourselves for the worst, with one eye open to the very real possibility that this is it.
I...am tired of asking the questions. I'm tired of answers based on the worst-case-scenario. I'm tired of trying to find the strength to be ok all the time; tired of mustering the resolve to let life be.
So I'm changing my what-if. I'm changing my question so that I can change my answers so that I can live.
These days, as God prods my heart, I find that instead of asking my thousands of what-ifs, I am asking, "What If Not?"
What if that doesn't happen? What if this isn't like this?
You see, I'll admit - it's hard to just throw away the questions. I get it. These little insecurities (and huge insecurities) bond us to memories, to circumstance, and particularly to fear. These are the things that keep us asking; these are our worst-case scenarios. It's impossible, I think, to just wake up one day and stop asking. Maybe one day, I'll be able to, but today is not that day. Probably not for you, either. These are our questions. It's almost paralyzing in our hearts if we don't acknowledge them.
But there's nothing in the rules that says we can't rephrase them. That's why I go with "What If Not?" I'm asking the same questions I've been asking for ten years, but instead of focusing on what happens if they happen, I'm inviting myself to imagine what might be going on if they don't.
For the person whose anxiety rests in driving, maybe for years, they have asked themselves, "What if I get in an accident?" The answer is fear, and fear convinces them to stay home. But suppose instead, they start asking, "What if I don't get in an accident?" The answer is adventure, and adventure drives them down new roads.
Maybe you're socially awkward and you've been asking yourself, "What if nobody likes me?" The answer is fear, and fear sends you to the corner to stand by yourself. But suppose instead, you start asking, "What if nobody doesn't like me?" The answer is invigorating; you start to see yourself as sociable, likable, and maybe you are. The answer sends you out to mingle.
Maybe, like me, you've faced failure and for years, decades, you've been asking yourself, "What if I fail?" The answer is fear, and fear convinces you to not even try. But suppose instead, you start asking, "What if I don't fail?" The answer is amazing, and suddenly, you are able to step into the life you've only dreamt of touching for far too long.
Changing my what-if to what-if-not makes me focus on the great things that could happen, instead of trapping me in the potential disasters waiting ahead. This little twist of the question has set my heart free to imagine the wonderful, incredible, beautiful things that are really going on, that God is really inviting me into, that I wouldn't want to miss for anything. Especially not for simple fear.
In what-if-not, I am still acknowledging my same questions - I am acknowledging the haunting memories of my failure, the lingering circumstances that make me wonder, the very real nerves about trying again - which is healing balm to the part of my heart that is still looking for the answers to such things. But I've turned them on their head so that these same questions empower me. And empowered, I choose against fear, and that is part of the answer to these questions. Doing life, and doing it again, and doing it again, and choosing to do it again, is starting to answer the what-ifs that wondered if I ever could. It's starting to address those haunting memories. And it's getting me pretty excited about the possibilities that are out there for me.
Things I would be missing if I was stuck in what-if. Things that my what-if would say are not worth the risk. But my what-if-not tells me it's a blessing too big to miss.
It's time to get excited about something. It's time to stop spinning ourselves into worst-case-scenarios and finding strength to face inevitable doom. It's time to start asking instead what is out there and pumping ourselves up to dive right in, whatever questions may linger.
Because yeah, sure...what if? I get it.
But what if not?