Sometimes I get caught up in the what-ifs.
And I know many people worry about the future. But I think I'm kind of unique, in a bad way, in that I worry about the past.
When I was 10 or so, I was on a girl scout camping trip that found us by the Meramec River. We were cleaning out a lodge for day use and a leader handed me an armload of cornstalks. There'd been a harvest dance or something like that. She told me to follow the trail down to the river and toss the cornstalks into the Meramec. Easy enough. I carried them down the trail, not really paying attention, until the ground fell out beneath me. I was on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Meramec.
It was a long way down.
I tossed them over the side and walked back to the lodge.
I have thought about how close I came to falling in the river ever since. Three decades of worrying about the alternate universe where I plummeted to my death.
I have had some what-ifs this week.
London and I were in the car on the way home from a movie. We stopped at Target to pick up the three subject notebook we had forgotten to get on the big school supply trip. Heading home on the side streets in the rain, a car pulled out from an alley and kept going.
In the split seconds that I had, I could do the math and see that he was going to run right into London's door. Already the ambulance trip and the emergency room flashed into my mind. Without thinking anything else, I ran up into the median and we narrowly escaped a wreck. By about four inches. The driver gave me the finger (I had complete right of way, I wasn't speeding, I should have been giving him the gesture).
I pulled away slowly and managed myself into a parking lot where I burst into hysterical crying while London tried to reassure me: "Mom, it's ok, we didn't get hit."
But we could have.
I also had knee surgery last week. Arthroscopic, no big deal. Then I went for my "get the stitches out and a pat on the back" appointment and the surgeon sat down with me, looked at my knee, praised it, and then explained all the things he'd done. Yes, I had two tears in my mensicus. But, he showed me the pictures, I also had this thing on my femur.
My friend Trisha called it an osteochondral defect. The doctor used scarier words. Like, "dead bone". He had to go in and drill tiny holes in my femur to try to help boost the blood supply to that part of the bone. He was happy with how my knee seemed to be healing up. And then scheduled another appointment for me in two weeks.
My knee had way more wrong with it than I thought. Than he thought. And maybe that part of the bone wasn't as dead as he seemed to indicate. But if it were, well, I drove home wondering about how I wasn't even going to see a surgeon until my friend Maggie pushed me to. It was fine now that I was home from all my hiking. Fine. But obviously not fine. And the surgery maybe caught something that would have progressed and gotten worse without attention.
Maybe it was a near miss like the car wreck that didn't happen and the fall from the bluff that didn't happen.
But more than just brushes with death or scary moments when I didn't feel safe. I think about my connections to the people on this planet. What if I hadn't moved into my block? What if I hadn't said yes to the librarian at my school and taken that tutoring job with her niece? What if I'd gone to UT instead of SLU? What if I hadn't said yes to going out that night? What if I hadn't sent that letter? What if I'd let it slide? What if I'd been too timid? What if I'd said yes? Or no? What if I'd given up?
Car wrecks, bluffs, and knee surgeries aside, I think about those what ifs more and more these days. And the pattern I see is that when I come to a crossroads, even if I don't know it's a crossroads, when I listen to my heart I'm right. If I would have done some overthinking, I would have lost.
Which makes me wonder, of course, about all the things I've lost by overthinking.
I have a heart bigger than my whole self sometimes and bold as brass.
I keep it in check by thinking too much and worrying and ruminating. And with fear.
But what if I didn't?