Caution: Falling Ice

Many of the streets in Cambridge and Boston have “Caution: Falling Ice” signs, warning the walker that at any minute a giant icicle or block of snow could come down on top of you and change your life forever…or at least for a short time.  I appreciate these signs. They give a caution without putting fear in my brain and heart.  The warning is delivered in yellow, a bright , distinct color in the midst of grey winter, and the font is friendly. As I pass by I always look up – just to make sure that the warning, like  Chicken Little‘s words “The sky is falling, The sky is falling”, will not come to pass.

So much do I love these signs that I would like life to have one.  I think back on global and local events of the past three weeks that directly affected my life: an uprising in Egypt; paralyzing blizzards creating cries of “Snowmageddon” in Chicago and grumpier than usual compatriots on the T in Boston; a birthday; attempting to communicate with a school about one of my kids; keeping up with communication with one daughter in Cairo and one daughter in Istanbul; falling behind in work and home from ‘all of the above’ and I wish I had seen a “Caution: Falling ice sign for any or all of these. (Actually, not true – I did have a ‘caution:your birthday’s coming’ warning)

But life doesn’t have caution signs.  It’s this walk of faith knowing implicitly that anything could happen to change life as I know it. Added to that is the recognition that if I live in fear, paralysis sets in and renders me useless and captive to what Shel Silverstein calls the dreadful ‘what-ifs!’

  • Whatif extreme chaos erupts in Cairo and the last plane leaves trapping Annie forever in an apartment in Tahrir Square with her rescue kitties?
  • Whatif my 15 year-old son never does his homework again, drops out of school at 15 to play guitar, and lives at home forever?
  • Whatif….and the list could go on forever depending on the vividness of my imagination on any given day.

Realistically, had there been a warning sign 2 weeks ago there is no way I could have coped – the assault of ice would have been too overwhelming and it is wishful-thinking to believe that I would have fared any better with advance notice.   I probably would have lost more sleep and obsessively watched news stations that didn’t yet have any stories. Whether I like it or not, there will never be caution signs on the sidewalks of my life, regardless of how much I may want them.  Faith is continuing to walk along the path where ice could fall, knowing that I have a far greater protector than the yellow sign and a far greater comforter than the whatifs.

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow talle?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

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3 thoughts on “Caution: Falling Ice

  1. What I wanna know is howcome? Like, Howcome we never think: whatif I wake up in a fantastically good mood and all the ice melts slowly, dropping freezing cold drips of laughter down my back? Howcome we never think: whatif I get to work today and actually experience a resolution for every challenge I encounter? Howcome we never think: what if, just for today, I do not have one negative thought and trust that everyone I know and love will rest in that knowledge for this one day?

    But we don’t. What a shame!

    Love you.


    1. I just want to say “Ditto!” to Leslianne’s post. That’s what we need to do with all the negative “whatifs”.
      Great thoughts, Marilyn, and I love Shel Silverstein.


    2. Ouch – but it’s true. There is a funny book out called “Watching the English” and they give the great example of two people standing on the road (or in my case the elevator). The one looks at the other and says “Isn’t it beautiful out today?” To which the other replies “Yes, but it’s going to be cloudy tomorrow” ….kind of along the same lines. As a wise woman named Polly has said to me “God never gives us grace for our imagination (aka our whatifs).


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