If rolls of toilet paper needed parenting, our house would be the place for them.
Evelyn, who is two years old, is the mom of all the toilet paper rolls in the house. She’s also the mom of the tape measures, the measuring spoons, and most of the shoes. (Basically, if it’s an inanimate object and it’s missing, she has wrapped it in a blanket and carried it off.)
She gathers her babies up, makes sure they aren’t tucked away in dark and boring cabinets—especially overnight!—and lets zero minutes pass without offering them some sort of enriching activity, mostly in the form of very loud toddler songs.
She also names them all Cinderella, and she stacks them one on top of the other into giant towers and then knocks them all down, so. I wouldn’t suggest hiring her as a nanny or anything, but she does love her toilet-paper-roll-Cinderella-babies without a lot of complication.
She doesn’t seem to walk around thinking:
What if they all get unrolled? What if I forget where I hid them? What if someone uses them to make tissue-paper flowers? What if someone gets a runny nose?!
I guess, being two, she has not yet filled her head up with an unending stream of unlikely-but-still-remotely-possible catastrophes. Thank goodness.
My own brain, on the other hand, has an overdeveloped what-if muscle.
It gets to work out alllll the time.
What if I turn around and she’s gone?
What if he falls down those stairs?
What if the cold turns into pneumonia?
What if a garbage truck accidentally drives onto the playground?
What if that skateboard wipes out?
What if there’s a tornado? I don’t know any tornado protocols and our house isn’t built to withstand a tornado. (This is because we live in Southern California, not Kansas.)
It’s really all the same thing. What if they need something I can’t give?
I don’t know.
I do know that those what-ifs keep us alone and apart, because for one thing they just suck up a whole lot of energy.
But for another thing, they’re risky to say out loud.
If I tell you about them, you might be able to help—or you might think they’re ridiculous. You might think I’m ridiculous. It’s easier to keep quiet.
For example: You aren’t worried that someone will leap into your backyard, snatch one of your kiddos, and be halfway to Arizona before you can even call for help, right? And I suspect I shouldn’t be either, because it’s pretty unlikely! So I won’t tell you about that.
I’ll just sit on that fear and not know how to make it go away, and if I look right at it I’ll feel shame wash up over me because it’s a silly fear. And I’ll never move on to a place of connection and wholeness. What a plan!
I have an idea, though.
I can’t fix every situation I can imagine, but maybe I can use my superpowers for Good instead of for
Evil Anxiety. It’s so crazy, it just might work.
Because I am SKILLED at the art of asking what if. But instead of using that what-if like a flashlight to point at each fear in my unruly brain, I could shine a light in the other direction.
What if it’s all GOOD?
What if everything works? What if this goes well? What if we already have everything we need? What if love really does win? What if God is here now? What if everyone is doing their best? What if this is the path we’re meant to walk? What if this is the road to becoming your most wholehearted, flourishing self?
What if there’s enough to go around?
What if I build a bigger and bigger tent instead of a smaller and smaller box? What if the goal isn’t to protect what I have (family, love, safety), but to get everyone what they need (acceptance, belonging, dignity, security)?
What if we trust that we can just show up, even if we can’t control everything?
What if the point isn’t to have an exit strategy, but to be present, to be brave and be kind and be love and maybe provide some comic relief along the way?
What if the thing you have to give isn’t your best contingency plans, but your best self?