I hate "what ifs". They haven't occupied my mind for quite a while but when they do it's quite a battle killing their roots before they deeply anchor themselves. Being immersed in nature and living a calmer lifestyle for the past few months has really centered me and pulled me into a healthier mental and physical place. Then two nights ago, these relentless uninvited guests crept their way back into my thoughts. As soon as they invaded my mind, I quickly envisioned a boxing glove jabbing every one of these exhausting pests and charging at them with a fierce uppercut aimed at eradicating them for good. This is my go to exercise when negative thoughts try to make their way in.
In June, when our stay in Long Island was coming to an end, we were trying to figure out our next steps. We did not want to return to Manhattan under its' condition during the pandemic. Many nights we spoke for hours trying to decide where to go next. Then it occurred to me that we can go everywhere, and nowhere, and just get in a car and hit the road. My spouse thought the idea was brilliant. Then, rather than jump with joy that he loved the idea, my mind went to the "what ifs". What if schools don't go remote and our children miss school? What if leaving home will be too disruptive for our children? What if a second outbreak hits and we are locked out of states having to drive back home with no stops in between? What if moving around a lot exposed us to Covid? What if we get into a car accident along the way? What if, what if, what if..... After a full on boxing match with my thoughts, courage ultimately won and we started making the plans for a pretty epic experience.
Two nights ago they came back, right after I completed the road trip plans for the next couple of months ahead- these sneaky little thoughts that want to hold me back and cripple my enthusiasm. What if heading west is a bad idea? What if we get stuck in the wildfires? an earthquake? an avalanche? What if the roads during winter are so bad we can't drive? What if states are on lock down and don't let non-residents in and then we are unable to get back east? What if someone gets hurt while skiing? What if the economy crashes further while we are spending all this money traveling? Oy... they just wouldn't stop multiplying their negative little voices in my brain cells. Every time I plan something exciting, they seem to make an appearance. Why won't they just let me be happy?
In life we can easily focus on all the reasons not to do something. Yet, most times when we conquer our fears and drown the "what ifs" we feel empowered and improved for it. My mind had a myriad of reasons not to embark on this road trip even though the whole idea was devised by it! It's too expensive, it's irresponsible, it's too unplanned, it's too dangerous, etc... The fight to clear the "what ifs" so we can proceed with an unforgettable traveling plan was a pretty strenuous one. I am so happy I ultimately won that battle.
Where do these thoughts come from? And how do we discern the "what ifs" that try to impede us from our intuition which guides us in the right direction? Why do we like to focus so much on the future which is in actuality an abstract concept? I see so many people who are perfectly capable of pursuing their dreams being locked down by fear and continuously giving the "what ifs" prime real estate in their heads. They have let the "what ifs" conquer and colonize their minds leaving them unable to pursue their dreams and goals. A road trip is a pretty solid metaphor for life. We must recalibrate when doubts creep in, change the oil, get back on the road and drive through all the peaks and valleys while embracing the paved roads, along with the dirt roads, with a general plan in hand and a strong willingness to take a detour when need be.
I hope these unwanted houseguests do not return for a while but when they do, I will be ready for another match in the ring, ready to knock them out. The only "what if" currently welcomed to hunker down in my head is the one who shouts "what if you don't follow your dreams!?!"