How To Stop Being Afraid of the Future
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown”— H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror In Literature.
Last night, I’d settled in for a cosy evening by the fire with a good book. I was already in my jams and curled up in my chair when I heard Witchy’s familiar soft rapping at the door.
It creaked as it opened and moments later, she appeared in the parlour. One look at her face and I knew all was not well.
“What’s wrong, Witchy?”
“How do you do that?”
“How do you always know immediately that something is wrong?”
“It’s easy. I can tell by the way you look.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. I always look with my eyes, like everyone else. What’s that got to do with how you know when something is wrong?”
“I mean, the expression on your face.”
“Then why didn’t you say that? English is so dumb. Sometimes I think I will never learn it properly.”
“You’ve done a great job learning English in a short time. It’s not an easy language. It’s influenced by several languages and has a lot of inconsistencies. Be patient with yourself. You’re doing a great job.”
Dropping into the chair opposite mine, she sighed heavily, unconvinced. “It doesn’t feel that way to me.”
“Is that what’s bothering you this evening?”
I waited. Nothing. Okay, so she still hasn’t learned the finer points of conversation. She’ll get there.
“What is it, Witchy? Can I help?”
“I don’t know. And I don’t know.”
I waited again. Still nothing.
“It never works very well when I try to guess. Can you please try to tell me why you look so sad?”
Biting her lower lip, suddenly her eyes were brimming with blue tears. “Everything is so good!”
“Uh…okay, I don’t understand. Why would that make you sad?”
“Because it might not always be good!”
“Well, yeah, that’s true.”
“It is??!” She stared at me, obviously distressed.
“Of course, Witchy, that’s true for everyone.”
“But I already had so much ‘not good’ with what happened in the Transylvania Forest. And it’s been so hard to find ‘good’ again since I moved to England. I thought I was done with ‘not good’ and now you’re saying I’m not?”
“Well, not exactly. I mean, I can’t predict what will happen, but — ”
“I thought you were psychic.”
“I am, but — ”
“Then why can’t you tell me if I will find ‘not good’ again?”
“Let’s stick to one topic at a time, okay? And the most useful one in this moment is about the fact that life is full of both good and not good.”
“It wasn’t like that in the Forest! It was all good until — until everything went so wrong!”
“Are you sure about that, Witchy?”
“Hmm. I remember you telling me some things that weren’t so good even before the whole thing about your spells and — well, that stuff.” I didn’t want to get too specific; she was still a little sensitive about what happened.
“Why don’t I remember them?”
“We tend to forget a lot of the not-good things, or at least we move past them and don’t think about them. The bigger ones stand out more, like the events that made you leave the Forest.”
“I could never forget that. Especially when I nearly blew up the Forest.”
“Yes…well, you told me that throughout your couple of centuries together, your not-so-nice boyfriend was always looking at younger witches.”
“Never trust a vampire who is a lot younger than you.”
“I’m sure that’s excellent advice, Witchy. Anyway, that’s just one example of some of the not-good parts of your life. Bad things happen to everyone, whether a little bit bad or really, horribly, awfully bad. And then there’s lots of good, too.”
“Well, then, I’ll just plan everything perfectly! I’ll be really, extra, super careful not to make any mistakes or do anything that might go wrong! Then I’ll never have to worry about bad things happening again.”
“Oh, if only it were that easy.”
“It isn’t? Oh, no! I’m doomed! We’re all doomed!” She leapt up from her chair, quickly becoming a panic attack on feet.
“My dear little friend, please calm yourself! Sit down and take a few deep breaths, okay?”
Dutifully, she did as I suggested. When she was more settled, I continued.
“Okay, I’m going to say something that — knowing you as I do — you might find to be alarming, but please let me finish because it gets better. All right?”
Looking more than a little worried, she nodded slightly and remained silent.
“The truth is that you can make all the plans you want but there’s never a guarantee about how they’ll turn out.”
Her eyes bulged and her mouth dropped open as she began to interject. I held up my hand as a gesture for her to remember to let me finish.
“You can plan and organise and arrange till the cows come home but — ”
“I don’t have any cows.”
“I know, it’s just — ”
“Neither do you, unless you got some today?”
“No, it’s a figure of speech, Witchy. I don’t have any cows.”
“See? English is so dumb.” Exasperated, she rolled her eyes.
“Anyway, although we think we have control over our lives, we don’t have nearly as much as we’d like to believe. We can control our thoughts, our choices, and what we do. But after that, it’s out of our hands. We have no control of the outcome.”
“Oh, no! When did that start?” Panic rose instantly.
“It’s always been that way, Witchy.”
“But what about all those times I made plans and everything worked out as I wanted?”
“You got lucky. Nothing got in the way of what you wanted to accomplish. You see, there are countless external influences and events that can be dropped in your path, things over which you have no control. And they can derail your plans in an instant.”
I gave her a moment to let this sink in.
“Well, Liberty, I think you’re wrong! I can plan what I want to wear every day. Nothing can change that!” She folded her arms, pleased with herself about disputing my theory.
“Until you accidentally spill your witch’s brew or your breakfast on it. Well, I guess you could still wear it but…I’m sure you get my point.”
“Are you nearly at the good part yet, Liberty?” she asked, her tone bordering on irritated.
“Okay, thanks, Kevin!” I joked.
“What?” her confusion obvious.
“I can’t help myself. Every time I hear someone say ‘Thank heaven,’ it sounds like ‘Thank Kevin.’ So I do.”
“It’s a joke, Witchy. There’s no Kevin. Well, there are plenty of Kevins. Just not in this case.”
“What’s that Jewish thing you always say, oy vey?”
“Okay. Oy vey.” She slapped her hand against her forehead and sighed.
“Anyway…getting back to the point I wanted to make…You’ve never known what was going to happen in the next five minutes, or even the next one minute. You just didn’t think about it. You made your plans and got on with things and as long as they went as you’d hoped, you thought you had control over the outcome. But you didn’t. You never did. No one does. Having that realisation doesn’t suddenly make everything any more scary than it already was. You just weren’t thinking about the huge unknowns that were stretched out in front of you.”
“Oh, great! Now I sure will!” groaned my little blue friend.
“Well, you can if you want but I wouldn’t recommend it. I have a better idea, and here’s where it gets good.”
She perked up immediately. “Yay! The good part!”
“Keep making your plans. Keep making the best choices you can. Keep your eye on your goals and do everything you can to make them happen. And expect the unexpected.”
“What does that mean? How can you expect it if it’s unexpected? English is — ”
“I know — it’s dumb.”
“It means to be prepared for things you don’t expect. Be ready to accept and embrace change. Be open to a new direction, a new path, a new way of doing something. When obstacles are thrown in front of you, be willing to find a way around them, over them or through them.”
“When you put it like that, it doesn’t sound so scary.”
“It isn’t, really. The thing is, life will always throw roadblocks and curve balls at you. It doesn’t matter how big or disruptive they are, the point is the same. As long as you aren’t rigid in your thinking, as long as you stay open to the idea of change, the more easily you’ll deal with the unexpected. There’s always a solution or an alternative. You just have to be willing to look for it.”
“That sounds like what I’ve always done. I just didn’t think of it like that.”
“Exactly, Witchy. It’s about seeing life as a river and floating along, navigating the rocks and waterfalls as best you can. They’ll always be there; they aren’t the source of your problems. It’s your response to them that counts. It makes all the difference in the world.
“I see. So…I guess you’re still not going to tell me what’s in my future?” she grinned.
“Nope. That would spoil the adventure!”
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