What if I can’t … ?
What if they don’t … ?
What if they won’t … ?
What if it doesn’t work … ?
Life is full of crossroad moments. We make decisions every day about the direction of our lives, but some of these choices are more significant than others. Every time we face an important choice or a change we are instantly confronted with questions and cautions. Making the right decision is always a priority, but sometimes we put a lot of pressure on trying to guarantee success. Often, our ability to choose the best pathway will give us rewards in our health, finances, relationships, business, family, career, schedule and lifestyle. These choices matter.
Over the past few years I have encountered change after change after change. Each of these moments have brought me to the point where I simply had to respond. When my husband died, I had to make choices about his funeral, our business, his personal items, where I lived. In some of these areas, I struggled to make any choice at all. Admitting that this monumental change had happened, and then responding to it positively was gut-wrenching. Alec’s coffee mug sat right alongside his other desk items for weeks, completely untouched. It was only the developing mould that finally pushed me to make the choice to remove it.
It is completely understandable that when life throws an unexpected spanner in the works, we struggle to make choices. We are human. We are sensitive, vulnerable and delicate. We look for ways to avoid hurt, loss, and uncertainty. We are drawn to the familiar and to the path of least resistance. Our brain directs us to do whatever we can to maintain safety, security and comfort. All of us have an involuntary, instinctive drive towards self-preservation. This motivation is meant to keep us safe and sound. It maintains the status quo, and steadies us in places we already know and understand.
From the ease of the familiar, change is not desirable. In fact, when our agenda is to continue safely as we always have, change is the enemy. When unexpected change comes at us out of the blue, it rocks our world so hard that we think we might be buried under the rubble of the earthquake. We seriously doubt we will make it.
This dreadful feeling of overwhelm is a crisis is absolutely horrible, but what about when we meet an opportunity to CREATE changes? After the crisis has hit, we are presented with the need to refocus, redefine, redirect, rebuild. How things go now is completely up to us. This is really tough going. Our brain is naturally resistant to change, so it’s common for us to approach these times wishing that everything would just return to the way it was. But this vain hope is not reality, and if we continue to cling to it, we face the very real threat of going under.
There Is Loss
Yes, there is a time for sadness, grieving, loss, devastation, mourning, licking our wounds. It is vital that we invest into letting the full impact of the loss really hit us. Whether you have lost a partner like me, or a child or other loved one, or even if you have watched a relationship fall apart, or a business fold, these changes pack a powerful punch to our emotions. The loss hurts. Deeply. Feeling that pain is central to our ability to move through it.
And There Is More
But I know from experience that there is more. Even when the pain is still throbbing, the tears are still flowing, and our heart is still racing in terror, there is more contained in this season. Your future hangs right there in the balance of your choices. In this season you are the only one with the power to make the decisions that will change your outcome. Even at this moment in time, you can embrace change. You can harness the opportunity amidst the crisis.
From where you’re sitting now, this might seem absurd. This response goes against your instinctive reaction to protect, defend, hide, retreat. To imagine that you are powerful at this time, and that there are opportunities hidden amidst the loss almost seems irreverent, cold, heartless. This mindset presses all of the buttons of our doubt, fear and discomfort. We look for a way out. We shrink back behind guilt, and retreat to the position of victim. We throw our hands up in the air and we call it quits. We ask all of the “What If … ?” questions at the top of this blog. We concede defeat and, we dress up our surrender for a worthy parade. In the honourable name of ‘mourning’, we settle for our miserable outcome.
I know how you feel. To this day I still pinch myself that I was able to clean out Alec’s wardrobe, move away from the home that we had built together, sell the business that he loved. Yes, I faced pangs of guilt and shame and sheer disbelief at the steps that I took. Honestly, I still do at times. It does seem crude and confronting that life would go on.
But it does. And for two minutes here, I hope we can all come to an acceptance of the fact that when life thrusts you into disaster, it hurts. And when it hurts we find it harder to stand up and make choices in our lives. And we ask ourselves questions to justify that hardship. Those questions highlight the risk of failure, the potential for loss, the uncertainty of the outcome. And we use the answers to justify our retreat. Despondence. Disillusionment. Disengagement.
But we are still alive. We are the survivors of the depression, the bankruptcy, the breakup, the death of our loved one. Our heart still beats out a rhythm and our breath still whispers life. It is lovely, precious and endearing that we want to protect ourselves from additional pain. But this is not always beneficial, and it certainly doesn’t allow us to build pathways towards growth and freedom when we need to recover what we can from a devastating crisis.
So, instead of asking “What If … ?” questions that enliven fear, let’s start asking the questions that enliven faith. “What if …” we could ask questions that shine a spotlight on opportunity? We could make this entire situation into something new. We could bring honour to the season of loss. We could show ourselves and others that all is not lost. People are kind, the world is good, and life is worth living. We could dare to search for something good amidst the bad, and we could actually find it!
What if I tried?
What if I could?
What if it worked?
What if I don’t?