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.
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!