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What if?

I’m at home over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, spending time with my dog and my family. It’s been a reflective few days, saturated in malaise and thought but not much sleep. As I navigated the landscape of those thoughts late last night I started browsing through my old bookshelf and pulled a number of Shel Silverstein books to browse through, including A Light in the Attic.

Paging through this old, dusty book, inscribed lovingly by my grandmother, reminded me that for all the effort we may pour into trying to vocalize our feelings or explain our philosophies, sometimes language that a child can understand is the most piercing.

One poem stood out in particular, entitled “Whatif.”

Last night, while I lay thinking here,
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 taller?
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!