Sunshine poured through the window, warm mug of coffee in hand. The journal lay open, pen beside it. And I thought to myself what if I say it wrong? what if it offends? what if I can’t even bring myself to write the words?
Two words that empty us. Two words that isolate our souls.
Two words that find their way into just about every place we might find ourselves.
What if we get into an argument at that big family dinner? What if my kids don’t behave? What if I disappoint on that project for work? What if I don’t fit in at that small group study?
And, if what if happens, what then?
Will we handle it well? Will we remain the person we’ve become—the growing, healing one who’s running after God’s heart—or will we spiral back into a past to which we owe today’s self, but are glad we’ve left behind?
What if is a sneaky thief. The words rob our hearts of the gift of what is, and what can be. They steal our creativity and contentment.
Tom Kelly and David Kelly of the Harvard Business Review affirm research that shows:
People are born creative. As children, we revel in imaginary play, ask outlandish questions, draw blobs and call them dinosaurs. But over time, because of socialization and… education, a lot of us start to stifle those impulses. We learn to be warier of judgment, more cautious, more analytical.*
In other words we find ourselves creatively paralyzed on a couch with our journals! Or stuck with whatever we’re facing that struggles under the weight of what if.
Problem is, just letting go of the what if isn’t much help.
How to Connect to What Is and Fill That Empty Space
- What is happening in my body? Breathe deep. Breathe all the way out. Listen to everything scalp to finger tips to toes. Where’s the tension? Where are you feeling well? What do you need to take care of yourself in this moment? How will you meet that need? (Yes, you’re worth it, even if it takes a few moments out of whatever you’re doing.)
- What is happening around me? Not the what if fears, but notice the immediate environment. As I sat on the couch I held a warm cup of coffee that felt good in my hands. The sunshine streamed through a window and warmed my heart. Even the smell of the leather journal reminded me someone believes in my mind and expressiveness. Yeah, I’m what iffing about what to write, but there’s a lot of what is-ing going on that is pretty beautiful! Bet that’s true for you too.
- What is one thing I can do right now to further goodness? Maybe it’s look longer at that life-giving aspect of the moment. Maybe deliberately loving someone who’s a little tricky (for me: it’s my middle schoolers). Maybe it’s a change of environment, like walking outside. My 7 year old daughter explains the best part of outside so well: “the sky is so big, it makes me happy.” If I can’t get outside right away, I’ll sometimes lock myself in a bathroom or sit in my car where the only thing I can hear is my own breathing. Ahh, the peace.
The shift from fear’s what if to the creativity of what is begins with learning to be present—to check in with our body, our environment, and the truth that we can choose how we experience it all.
We don’t have to stay empty. We don’t have to be isolated by what if. We have what we need to make what is a place of sacred goodness. A place of truth that fills us with hope for whatever may come.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. —Romans 5:5
P.S. Part of embracing what is includes letting go of what has been—especially hurts from relationship and experiences that have bankrupted our confidence. I wrote a book for parents who, like me, need to fill empty spaces left by life raising kids with disabilities.
Holidays can be extra challenging for these families, so I’m offering a gift between now and December 1st. Here’s how to claim it.
- Buy a copy of Get Your Joy Back for you or someone else you know—a parent, grandparent, or even teachers and pastors, who’ve told me it’s helped them better serve families.
- Send me a copy of the receipt—either email it to lauriewallin(at)gmail(dot)com or send me a message on Facebook.
- And I’ll send you the 8 short video messages and 5-week study guide for FREE.
(*Read the HBR article here.)