The Story That Ends Just Like You Always Tell It


I'm the type of guy who has often felt most secure only after ruminating on the many facets of hypothetical worst-case scenarios.

My (pathologically achievement-oriented?) mind cannot seem to settle down until it's determined what I will do to rescue my ass from whatever dire depths it might fall into, should everything go horribly wrong… even as, I tell myself, all of that is unlikely to happen. (Right?)

If I don't go there in my head and something horribly wrong does happen, I'll feel like a big dummy… like I should've foreseen such a possibility and prepared for it accordingly, to cut it off at the pass before it has a chance to fully, disastrously manifest.

So I, therefore, spend a lot of mental energy pondering the specifics of what I don't desire to occur—a major no-no in the magical world of The Law of Attraction, where what you think about the most is what you end up actualizing in physical reality. Or so they say. But despite the obvious benefits of positive thinking, I simply cannot swallow any such belief that invests us with the ability to wishfully conjure away the less desirables, merely by repeating nice-sounding mantras. Shit does happen, to all of us at one point or another. I just want to be ready for it.

Reading that last paragraph, you could walk away with the idea that I don't believe our thought-patterns impact—actually, and not just conceptually—what happens in our lives. That is not true. I am such a big proponent of investing in our power of free will, I bother to write horoscopes and offer astrology consultations in order to help people direct their will more consciously. We can steer fate in the general direction we'd prefer it to go.

I am also simultaneously aware there are limits to what any single person's will can effect. Plenty is out of our control, too, though we always have more than a single option for how to respond to any given condition that lands in our lap. As I see it, we co-create destiny… in collaboration with the divine hand of God, the Goddess, Universal Consciousness, Lady Luck, chance, or who-/whatever it is that always gets its say in the matter as well.

Yet, in telling and retelling myself the same fear-driven story about what could go horribly wrong—if only to bolster my sense of preparedness—I attempt to grasp a fuller control than I'm legitimately entitled to. I want to contain the uncontainable… to write the as-yet-unwritten into a predictably manageable arc, even as I've already invited the ad-libs to hijack the narrative by having taken a large enough risk to trigger my inner emergency-aid-worker into potential disaster-planning mode. It's like gathering together a cast of talented comedians for a wacky night of improv, then providing them a pre-produced script which they are expected to follow to the letter, and wondering why the jokes ring canned and hollow.

Let's be clear: By worrying myself with mental surveys of all the potential problems, I do not make these problems happen. That's not quite the manner in which this storytelling fixes a certain reality into being. But when one spends so much energy stressing about hypotheticals rather than immersing one's self in the here-and-now of a current experience, we can be sure that no matter how the circumstantial specifics play out, one will experience the experience of it in the most predictable way possible—as stress about what will happen next.

Did you catch the slippery, almost-too-obvious-to-be-insightful logic of it all? Running through the same story about what could happen essentially guarantees that, at any end-of-the-story, we will always be left in the same spot: worrying about the future. (Not sure I'd want to read that one over and over again.)

Forget about the potential disasters we may have avoided by adopting this tactic. What about the pleasant surprises and enlightening discoveries, which are hardly appreciated in their exquisite wholeness as we are always already angling to protect them from damage or disintegration, since another shoe might drop at any given future moment? Isn't this what is meant by 'fear of success'? That should we necessarily triumph in attaining a goal or goodie, the experience of it will be moderated or muted by concern for our ability to preserve it or build upon it further?

The events may change, but we'll replicate a near-identical experience of them by squeezing their sequence into the ol' Hollywood formula. The path that's already been tread through the woods is so often the one we naturally travel, and it takes us to the place everyone's been before. How many prior footsteps pressed this intention through what once was a thicket? That pot of gold has been mined many times over, leaving only gilded dust to run our fingers through.

It is no wonder Robert Frost's choice of the road less traveled, which he admits 'made all the difference', has become the stuff of poetic legend. Author of my tale, I get halted by the unceremonious shock of being told by my main character that, no, he will skip the ooey-gooey reunions with star-crossed lovers and look for his happily-ever-after elsewhere. At that hinging pivot, I lose control of the story. I cannot tell it where to go because I do not know where it is going. I lose myself in the action, munching buttered popcorn along the trail. When the unexpected strikes, I'll figure something out. Until then, I breathe in the clear air and gaze at the scenery.