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What If?

By Will Baker


Lately I have been thinking about personal difficulty, or more specifically, about how we all relate to it. You see, I’ve been walking around for the past month with a small lump on my neck. Now, as it turns out, it seems that I have nothing to worry about, but during the interim when the doctor’s visit was scheduled, and the examination actually took place, I had plenty of time to think.

Based upon my personal observations, and studies on the matter of how we deal with stress, I do know that, during such times we have a habit of "reverting to type." You see each one of us has these mental "scripts" that we run, and actions and behaviorisms associated with them. Therefore, during these past few weeks I have been keeping a close eye on myself, to ensure that these scripts, by the way, many of which, can be very unproductive, didn’t get the better of me. Although I think that I gave a pretty good account of myself, of course, being an average human, I was met with limited success.

But I believe that the exercise was a productive one-- in that it afforded me the opportunity to imagine what it would be like, were I to no longer be around. And as simple as it sounds, it occurred to me that I would miss some things that are dear to me a great deal. And existentially speaking, after a few days of coming to grips with the fact that I might soon be the recipient of some rather bad news, which was a separate exercise in itself, I began to understand that no matter what the news might be, nothing would really change.

Of course, were my life to be cut short, there would be changes with my loved ones to be sure, but for me, I think that knowing that I was going to die, would really change nothing. I know that this must sound incredibly cavalier, and maybe it is, but this is a true statement. The sun would still probably set at night, and come up in the morning again. I would still be attempting to make the most of each day --I am sure with a bit more intensity, but I am a rather intense person anyway. No, it would be the grand opportunity for me to practice what I preach: to live in the moment. And I believe to probably experience a bitter sweetness that, hitherto, I have yet to imagine.

But given the proceeding, it’s time to "come-clean." I am certainly experiencing a tremendous amount of relief around the fact that all is okay around that little lump in my neck, and evidently, for at least the foreseeable future, I will probably continue to experience a corporeal form. And this relief is sweet. But so is the memory of this experience, of facing the possibility of some news of the worst order, and knowing that I was able to muster-up a plan. But gentle reader, this is good news for you too! For if I could manage it, you certainly could also. For it seems to me that I am an average sample of our species. But we are amazing creatures with the ability to adapt to and transform situations, so even the average among us can take comfort in our ability to face the unthinkable.

So here is to each one of us, and here is to good news and bad, and to doing the best that we can with it… And to living in the moment. We have fragile notions of what we want our futures to be, and we have memories. But stuck between these two we have what seems to me, to be what truly matters. For therein lays the substance of our lives, where the rubber meets the road: existing in the moment… And is that not all that we really ever have?



 (Essay Collection)