Tuesday, 10 May 2011

What if?

I'm not very prone to the What If scenario. What if I'd taken different decisions in my life? What if I'd never met X? What if I'd won the lottery? I don't think like that. But it must be really hard not to ask that question if your life has been torn apart by some quite hideous tragedy.

However determined you are to accept what life has thrown at you and come to terms with it, if something appalling has happened right out of the blue, surely you're bound to dwell on the circumstances and whether they could have gone differently.

If your loved one has been killed in a shocking air crash, aren't you bound to speculate? Suppose she'd taken a different flight? Suppose the flight had been cancelled? Suppose she'd been ill in bed? Suppose she'd been going somewhere else?

I reflect on this because of the recent inquest into the 7/7 bombings in London, and how many of the bereaved relatives are still traumatised by what happened. They must still be thinking frequently about that dreadful day and the tiny twists of fate that led to a horrific death rather than a lucky escape.

How could they possibly shrug it off and say, what happened happened, there's no point in brooding on it, you can't turn the clock back? The fact is there's a huge hole in their life where that person used to be and they desperately wish that hole had never opened up.

And they must also ponder that other version of What If - Why Me? Why did this calamity hit me and not some other person? Why was I singled out when other people are happily carrying on their lives, feeling safe and secure, confident of what the future holds?

Most of us take for granted the route our life has taken and assume we're travelling safely, but for those struck by tragedy suddenly the route is like a dangerous road on a cliff-edge. One careless manoeuvre and you could go straight off the edge into oblivion. All at once life isn't a springboard but a roulette wheel.

25 comments:

nursemyra said...

"One careless manoeuvre and you could go straight off the edge into oblivion"

That about sums it up. Since my partner died I find myself mentally preparing for the deaths of others I love. I try to maintain a degree of detachment so as to minimise the crushing pain of another loss

Nick said...

Myra - That's very sad that you feel you have to maintain a sense of detachment. But understandable after such a devastating loss.

Quickroute said...

I've done a few 'what if?' scenarios over the years but I'm pretty happy with where I am so I'll say 'whatever!'

secret agent woman said...

I haven't had the most devastating loss I can imagine (my kids) but though other sorrows - when my brother drowned, when my son needed brain surgery, a couple of miscarriages - I have yet to have that "why me?" reaction. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. So I may grieve, I may feel deep fear, but I don't engage in much what if thinking. I truly hope I never do anything that leads to something horrific, because I don't know how I'd manage the guilt of that.

Wisewebwoman said...

I've done that a few times, Nick, but never in sadness only in curiosity and I must say I'm pretty content with the way things worked out. The odd time I speculate on the two miscarriages I had and wonder but not for long. And I sometimes reflect on loved ones who passed on and what they would think of something today.
but never morbidly. To counteract the why me, I replace it with:
why not me.
Life is chaotic and we are all dust in the wind and awful things happen to all of us. There is no escape.
XO
WWW

Macy said...

I think the death of partners and kids shatters any notion that it "will be alright in the end". Because it won't.
In the end we're all dead.
So the "what if" doesn't really apply - if it wasn't that, it would be something else.
Not that this stops me railing against it being Not Fair.

Sorry, I'm sounding grim this morning.

Nick said...

Quickie - Glad you're happy where you are!

Secret Agent - I didn't know about all those things. You've certainly had your share of grief and sadness. Good that you never ask Why Me?

W3 - Miscarriages are so common but rarely spoken about. Indeed, why not me? None of us can escape our share of misfortune, it's just a question of how we deal with it.

Nick said...

Macy - True, sooner or later partners and kids have to die. And true again, if it wasn't one disaster, it might be another one. Nobody gets off scot-free in this world.

I assume the grimness is related to your heart problems. I hope it's nothing too serious.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I don't think in those terms very often because I am aware that we never know what burdens others may be carrying. The worst thing that could happen to me would be to lose one of my children, so I do worry about them on a regular basis. And while certain aspects of my own life have been difficult, I am very happy to be here still and believe it can always get better.

blackwatertown said...

I try not to think what if in that way. I suppose horrific events are abd enough when they come without dwelling on them in advance.
But at the same time I have a hope for the best but prepare for the worst paranoia too.
(Just noticed I've made the same journey as you but in reverse - from Belfast to London.)

Rummuser said...

I have been that route Nick, but may be I am conditioned to be different. Life goes on, and one accepts the changed situation and moves on. Is there any other way? In the Indian tradition the circle is a very normal way of looking at life and so the roulette wheel analogy sits well with me.

Nick said...

Heart - Indeed, we never know what burdens others are facing, especially if they put on a brave face to the rest of the world. There are many private agonies going on all around us.

Blackwater - Hope for the best but prepare for the worst is my tendency as well. We can hope as much as we like but things can't always go our way.

Baino said...

I what if all the time, then I think of the serendipity of events, if things had been different, would my kids have grown up into the people they have if their father hadn't died? Would I have met the people I have if things were as they should have been. What if I'd stuck with my original career choice, would I be where I am now? I ponder rather than regret although I have a few of those as well. What doesn't kill you might not make you stronger but it makes you grateful.

Nick said...

Ramana - I find the idea of the circle appealing as well. A lot of life's experiences have a circular quality rather than a linear one. Starting with the planet itself.

Nick said...

Baino - The assumption behind What If is that things might have gone much better. But then again they might have gone much worse. What if I'd fallen under a bus aged 11?

Megan said...

I've always been more of a "why not" type.

Nick said...

Megan - And why not?

Grannymar said...

I am not a 'what if' person, I prefer
“Life is not always the way it's supposed to be.. It's the way it is.."
The way we cope with it, is what makes the difference.

Nick said...

Grannymar - That's a good way of looking at things. A lot of dissatisfaction comes from comparing real life with our rose-tinted dreams.

Scarlet Blue said...

I was thinking this about Millie Dowler when watching the news last night... she chose a different route home from her usual one... and you think, if only she hadn't.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - I haven't really followed the Milly Dowler story. I see it's a classic case of what if? Instead of getting a lift back from school with her mum and sister, she took the train. And then instead of getting out at her usual station, she got out at another one. Twists of fate indeed.

Word check: milie!

wendy house said...

believing that life, death, and most stuff inbetween is actually a test of my sense of humour and creative ability has helped me through so many things that could be described as fundamentally tragic. Like the length of that sentence.

Nick said...

Wendy - That's a good way of looking at things as well. Life as a test of humour and creativity, excellent. Exactly the two things you need to get through tough situations.

That sentence is only 34 words. Kids' stuff.

Liz said...

We all have good times and bad times but I've noticed that some people have far more than their 'fair share' of tragedy. I'm just grateful I'm not one of those.

Nick said...

Liz - They do indeed. How some people manage to cope with so much adversity I can't imagine. I'm thankful my own life has been fairly straightforward.