I’m ok with COULD because it implies probability. It carries the ‘maybe’ along with it. SHOULD is ok with me as well, but it should be used cautiously, in my view. But WOULD… it’s definite. Certain. And more than that it is a certainty about the future. I’ll have to deal with WILL and AM GOING TO as well, but for now one word demolition at a time.
The word WOULD is a past tense of the word WILL. Think about that. It is the past tense of a word used to indicate the future. It is saying that something has already happened in the future. I would walk 500 miles… that phrase means that in the future ‘just to be the man who falls down at your door’ that I would for sure walk the 500 miles. No indication of the chance I might not make it the 500 for all the various reasons. This is what I know for sure will happen, has already happened–since it’s past tense–in the future.
Look. I understand. I like planning and making lists of intentions for the day. I like charting out trips and thinking about the week ahead or looking forward to whatever. So… first, a little background and context on why my mind went to war with ‘would’. Second, why I think it’s important to expel the word from my/our vocabulary. Third, an exception to the rule–kinda. Fourth… well, sometimes I keep saying things. Maybe there won’t be a fourth.
I mentioned in a few earlier posts that I’ve been having some gut issues. No bueno. And I have an appointment scheduled with the GI doc at the end of the month. Seems like a colonoscopy is imminent. Well, our Monday show as a family is The Neighborhood. Sunday afternoon, I had opened up to our closest peeps about how I get stressed thinking about health issues, and in particular working up what are the worst possible scenarios in my mind–then interacting in the present with those scenarios. It’s like I know what would happen.
Well, the episode of The Neighborhood was all about Cedric the Entertainer’s character, Calvin Butler, being scheduled for a colonoscopy and him trying to avoid it in all the ways. He finally admits to Dave that it isn’t the procedure that worries him, it’s what they might find. It was one of those, wait a second, is this episode directed at me kind of experiences? And also, an ‘oh yeah, a lot of people are just like me in the way they think and worry about stuff’ kind of episode.
But I had been in my head as I said. I had worked up ways that I would feel if this happened. Or the way my kids would react if this happened. Or what Sarah would do if this happened. What would be the course of events if this or that or the other… would, would, would. But I don’t know what would happen. I can imagine what could happen, but would… that’s a statement. And as Jerry sings in Terrapin, “statements just seem vain at last.”
So what? Well, I think that the root of a lot of anxiety is the word would. We, or at least I, can work up imagined scenarios about all manner of things. Then we expect them to happen. Because would means the future has already happened, remember. We load ourselves down with expectations not only of exterior events, but with the weight of expectations about ourselves. So. Heavy. We dwell there under that weight. We dwell there in the possibility that what we have declared is fixed and certain. But we don’t know what will happen. We don’t know. And, for me, to remove those words from my vocabulary forces me to remove my focus on what will happen in the future, and maintain my presence in what is happening now. Being here. Being.
The exception for me for now is talking about faith. The day will come the sun will shine and we’ll be fine the Avetts sing. God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Good will win. To be sure, we can’t be sure, that’s why it’s called faith. Hope. But I think it’s important to project the future that is painted for us through sacred texts and the cloud of witnesses and our own spiritual longings. This piece of the puzzle is a new twist in my attempted destruction of would and maybe will, and I do think it’s the exception that proves the rule.
It is not easy. I have realized how often I use words or phrases that indicate a certainty about the future. Would is only the most obvious example for now. And I get probability. Presumption. If you tossed a glass of water at me I would probably get wet. But maybe the wind will blow, or my cat like reflexes would kick in and I would dodge it…
So I aim to take my thoughts captive. Thoughts and vain statements about the future that are only figments of my imagination. Now is what’s up (to take a phrase from 2015). Now is eternal. It’s really real. And I want to shed the unnecessary weight of would. I intend to reorient my thinking, which is driven by language, away from then and towards now. The moment. Now, I need to read back through and see if there are any times I typed would or something similar and didn’t even notice it. 😉
Grace and peace y’all!