“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
~~ Lao Tzu
For a great deal of my life l lived in a “What If?” world. And l don’t mean that in a good way. I don’t mean imagining the very best that couldbe and then working to make it a reality. I don’t even mean my stories that I use to entertain. No, I mean the world of “what if l lose my job?” “What if l have another heart attack?” “What if l don’t manage to get a featured author slot at the gay romance retreat?”
I was living in “what if?” I was imagining it so hard that I’d be sweat and get agitated, sick to the stomach, unable to sleep and more….
I’m a lot better these days.
About fifteen years ago l found a teacher who seemed to never stress. I asked his secret and he told me he refused to live in unreality. He did not live in scenarios created by a stressed out imagination.
Oh? I thought. That’s all? Well how am l supposed to do that?
“You keep trying until it becomes natural. That’s why spiritual paths are called ‘practices.'”
So l tried. It wasn’t easy at first. I made a lot of mistakes. But bit by bit, my practice got better (even though it’s not perfect yet).
Let me give an example….
I’ve not been at the best of health lately. I’ve gotten colds and such at least four times in the last five or six months. Usually l don’t get sick more than about once a year. Finally my doctor wrote a note that he didn’t want me working any overtime.
When I took it to work, they were not happy. They made him fill out FMLA paperwork.
Then yesterday l found out l was scheduled for five days a week in the overtime starting up again next week. I started to panic. Five days? I work 12-hour days! What do l do? Have they decided to ignore the doctor’s orders? What if l had some kind of adverse reaction? What if l wound up in the hospital again? God! What if l died??? Do l obey the doctor and get fired? Then have to fight to get unemployment?
Why I started acting out in my head what I’d say to the judge, talking to myself, gesturing….!
And then, thank God, l remembered….
I was not living in reality!
I didn’t know anything yet! I hadn’t been handed my schedule. The person who told me l was working five days could be wrong. Who knows? And my supervisor sure wasn’t making a bee line to tell me what was going on.
I told myself to breath. I told myself that this panic was doing nothing but harming me. I told myself to stop acting things out. Every scenario in my head was a FALSE REALITY!
I needed to wait and see…. If I was given bad news, then if l wanted to panic, fine (although that certainly wasn’t healthy).
So l thought of something else. Turned my thoughts away from worries. If a worried thought tried to creep in l turned from it and thought about the next chapter in my book instead.
…they brought me my schedule.
Yes, I was working five days a week.
But not 12-hour shifts. Eight hour shifts. OMG! Three weeks of eight hour shifts! I’ll blink and it will be time to go home!
Yes, I’ll miss having four days off…. But this isn’t permanent. And eight hour shifts! Going home! Blinking!!
Now l think, I could have been in turmoil all morning! I could have been agitated and sick with worry. And it would have all been for nothing. Nadda. For an imagined “what if?”
I’m learning. Step by step. And even when life is tough, choosing a different path makes it all easier.
Today l am grateful l remembered not to life in What If?
And I’m grateful I’m walking this path.