Many of us carry burlap bags filled with burdens, overflowing with whatifs and howills: Howill I know how to discipline my kids when necessary? Whatif I marry someone who snores? Howill I pay my kids’ college tuition? Whatif after all my dieting, they learn that lettuce is fattening and chocolate isn’t?
Okay, let’s get serious. Have you even noticed what a huge impact the phrases “what if” and “how will I/we” have on our lives? Most of us use them all the time without meaning to and sometimes we even let them control our lives. To be honest, I and my grandson who like to write are big fans of escapism — of fantasy.
However, for some, it’s not the excitement of creating, but it’s a necessary thing and makes lives more bearable. There’s nothing wrong with occasional flights of fantasy. In fact, it can be emotionally healthy. It is for writers. But, occasional flights of fantasy aren’t what this column is about. I want to talk briefly about the case of “whatifs” and “howills.”
Most people such as teachers and child psychologists know that this type of thinking and self introspection can begin very early in life. Shel Silverstein, a writer focusing on children, knew this and captured it in his poem “Whatif.” In part, it reads: “Last night, while I lay thinking here/some Whatifs crawled inside my ear/ and pranced and partied all night long/and sang their same old Whatif song:/ Whatif I start to cry?/ Whatif I get sick and die?/Whatif I flunk that test?/Whatif green hair grows on my chest?...”
Then there’s the grownup version of the extreme represented by a hard rock and metal group who call themselves Suicidal Tendencies. They have a new album titled, “How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today?” Two other albums by the same group are entitled, “Feel Like S___ de javu Controlled by Hatred,” and “The Art of Rebellion.” By the way, all three of the albums have been rated five stars by their buyers and all three deal in some respect with the concerns of “how will I” and “what if.”
Before I turn this Echoes column into a sermon, which I’m quite capable of doing, because of my own past dealings with the subject, what if I simply show you how to use the phrases properly? Simply take away the phrases “what if” or “how will I” and repeat the following phrases, and do it often.
What if I love myself for who I am?
What if I am confident?
How will I allow myself to enjoy life?
How will I enjoy my time with my family?
What if I am an amazing person?
Isn’t it truly amazing what a difference a few small words make?