SHARING and CARING…it’s what LIFE is all about!

​What If…

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 in Blog, Food for Thought, Memories | 6 comments

Having dinner with Ted Dekker at the recent Write! Canada conference in Guelph, ON.

Just a week ago I spent three great days at Write Canada, a conference for writers who are Christian. Approximately 200 of us not only reacquainted ourselves with those whom we see only once a year but unabashedly soaked up the energy and expertise of those skilled in the world of writing.

One workshop introduced me to the concept of what if in fiction writing. Although not new, it was new to me. What made it even more exciting was to hear it so easily used by one of our plenary speakers, Ted Dekker. He just dropped it into one of his sentences as naturally as it was for him to take his next breath or smile his engaging smile. As a fiction writer, I was fascinated by the ease with which he shared how this method can be used without the emotional journey we take in our real world.

If you’ve read any of Ted Dekker’s novels, you will understand the limitless frontiers he has—as do all fiction writers—in saying what if. Fictitious characters experience no lasting threat of regret, guilt or disappointment because our fingers can erase and/or change a scene at will. That’s the beauty of what if in the world of fiction and fantasy. As much as characters seem real and as much as readers may identify with the journey they are on, it is fiction.

That’s not how it works in the real world. It’s not that easy. There’s no delete or backspace button.

Have you ever said “What if and then walked the bumpy road of wondering what things would have been like if? I know I have.

For example, I remember being in my forties and making the conscious decision to stop the Henna rinses and let my hair do its own thing, naturally: I stopped colouring my hair. But I had to deal with my children’s continual chanting, I’m gonna wash that grey right out of your hair. Believing, it was the right thing to do, I had to smile—somewhat weakly—at their attempt to change my mind. But today with a few decades added to my life, I can’t help wondering, what if I had listened to my children, hadn’t stopped colouring my hair. What if I had endured the onerous task of the six-week visit to the hairdresser? Would I now be taking ten years off my life? What if…

I will concede that many times our what ifs never amount to anything other than passing whims—like wishing our hair was another colour—and we can fluff them off like lint on a black sweater. These what ifs are quite inconsequential when we measure them against decisions that stop us in our tracks with heaves of regret, maybe disappointment or anger and quite possibly guilt. Moments or decisions in our lives when we make a defining choice that is set in stone and has lasting effects on our lives and perhaps those we love. What if I’d done this instead of that or said this instead of that? What if I’d turned right instead of left or took the high road instead of the low road? And more pointedly, what if I’d returned to college and earned my teacher’s diploma? What if I had prayed more for my children when they were younger? What if the miscarriage hadn’t happened? What if…

A very dear friend recently said to me that lately she’d been taking this journey of what if and allowing the negative thoughts of the past to infiltrate her days. Positive thoughts had been smothered. Trying to encourage her, I said, “What good is thinking what if when you can’t change what happened?” How arrogant of me! Why was it so easy for me to say, “Move on. You can’t change the past,” knowing full well that it was not easy when the journey of what if was taking her into a dark place where it was difficult to find an escape?

Then humbly, I had to admit, “Been there. Done that. Everyone does.”

Doesn’t everyone? Perhaps I shouldn’t be so arrogant again and presume that everyone struggles with the what ifs in life. I suppose I’d like to think my friend and I are not the only ones who battle this invisible monster.

What if I were to continue with this diatribe? I won’t, only to conclude with this. I am fully aware that we can always make a positive change in our lives that will have an impact on our future and perhaps add healing to our past. And, of course I know it’s never too late to pray or make amends or walk a different path. All very true; but if so, why do we allow the past what ifs to haunt us or sneak into our present and do more damage than good?

Push the delete button in the world of fiction writing and the what ifs are gone. Not so easy in the world of pulsing hearts and pumping lungs.


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Carol Ford

    I like this post, Ruth. I also enjoyed the conference and found the workshops and speakers inspiring and helpful. So much to do and so little time! What if…..

    • Ruth Waring

      Carol, I have a sweat shirt that reads, Too Many Books, Not Enough Time! But your comment is right on point! There always seems to be so much to do and not enough time to do it! Coming home from the conference I spent a few days at our trailer with a friend. When I drove her home to London and then did a turn-around on to Lindsay, I listened to Ted Dekker. Such a nice way to travel across the top of Toronto! Really, though, he was very inspiring, as were the other workshop leaders I listened to and learned from. Now it’s finding…no, MAKING the time to practise what they preached! Always nice to see you. Maybe some day at Fairhavens:)

  2. Darlene L. Turner

    Awesome post, Ruth! We’re plagued with so many what ifs, aren’t we? Why do we do that to ourselves? We need to turn them around into positives! Thanks for sharing. It was awesome seeing you again and sharing a dorm with you. Lots of fun! I miss you!! xo

    • Ruth Waring

      Thanks for the encouraging comment, Dar. All I can say is “Ditto.” I’ve missed you other years at the conference, but this year made up for the ones that you were unable to attend. Will be anxiously waiting to hear how your interviews broaden out. This might very well be the year!!

  3. Kimberley Payne

    Great post, Ruth! Although I don’t write fiction I think about “what if’s” a lot in my nonfiction writing. It was a wonderful conference…still processing all that I learned!

    • Ruth Waring

      Thanks, Kimberley. Always nice to see you and my ‘annual’ friends at the conference. I can’t help thinking, “What if I hadn’t attended this past June?” Silly! How could I not!! As you have said, there is always so much to learn that only time will permit me to absorb it all. Lots of notes and CDs to pay attention to. I am planning on attending the Ladies Night in downtown Millbrook on Aug 7. I’ll have a table with my books available for sale. If you are around then, please drop in and say ‘hi.’

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