The trap of “What if?”

What if she isn’t happy?

What if we can’t make rent?

What if we made these three choices and then this fourth thing happened — would we all be perfectly happy, then?

This is the game that my brain wants to play. It’s not playful though, actually, it’s arduous. It’s torture. I torture myself with these what ifs, and with the illusion that I can solve the puzzle, when in fact, the puzzle is life, and it cannot be solved.

All I can do is breathe and be present and make one choice after another. I cannot orchestrate the whole goddamn thing — “the whole goddamn thing” being my family’s happiness and wellbeing.

I can love. I can listen. I can show up every day and do my best, for myself and for them.

And then the job is to let go.

I am not the master architect. I am a flawed human who only exists in this very moment no matter how hard my brain tries to trick me into thinking I exist infinitely into the past and future, with the power to maneuver variables until the output in every direction is a perfect one.

Ah, perfection. My old nemesis.

Maybe I can come to appreciate this about myself, my desire to make things perfect. “What a lovely impulse,” I can say, instead of admonishing myself for wishing for the unattainable. “How lovely that you want things to be perfect for you and for those you love. Ah well, too bad you don’t have that power. I guess you’ll just have to make the best choice you can in the moment, moment by moment, forever.”

What if I take a breath?

What if I focus on tuning into the feelings in my body rather than the thoughts swirling around in my head?

What if I remind myself that I am not in control? And that I cannot be, no matter how clever I am, no matter how willing to torture myself?

What if?

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