Everywhere I go, I am accompanied by my two voices, “What if?” and “Fuck it”. For convenience, let’s call them WI and FI. Now WI has been with me for considerably longer than FI, but only because I wasn’t always old enough to know the expletive, so I probably had a younger version, more like “I don’t care how much trouble I’ll get into with my mum, I’m doing it anyway”. The adult version is much more pleasing on the ear for most situations, as I’m sure you’ll agree, and trips off the tongue nicely too.
WI was the strong voice, and came to the fore in almost every conceivable situation. This covered life/death situations, such as “What if I get hit by an oncoming car if I overtake this slow vehicle in front”, but also bizarre scenarios, such as “WI I change my shampoo, will my hair have an allergic reaction and fall out”. Incidentally, I am not allergic to anything so the likelihood of the latter occurring is minimal. But still, got to have that little thought, just in case.
For many years, WI dominated my life, making me wary of trying anything too daring, such as open water swimming (the huge WI of being eaten by a great white shark, which are of course commonly spotted chowing down on hapless swimmers up here off the coast of Northern England). WI stopped me from trying out scuba diving, in case it felt too claustrophobic breathing through the regulator. I have never suffered from claustrophobia. WI stopped me applying for the police until I was 27, in case I applied and didn’t get accepted. Note that the only negative outcome here was that I would be unsuccessful, not that I would be shot at dawn. But still, it prevented me even trying until I was made redundant from my job selling remote control helicopters over the internet – a career highlight I have yet to outdo. I was accepted…
When I turned 30, and started trying for a baby, WI shouted several octaves louder than FI, which was still a quiet little voice at the back, waving desperately to be seen. WI if I had a disabled child? WI I died in childbirth? WI I had a miscarriage? WI I had twins, or triplets, or OCTUPLETS? I didn’t have the “WI I end up with a bag of shit around my waist, lose my job as a police officer and suffer crippling mental health injuries”. That scenario was too far fetched even for my somersaulting imagination. And that is a key point…I realised afterwards, that WI hadn’t been able to cover this most outlandish situation, and even though it had happened to me, I had somehow come out the other side. I began to think…what is the point of WI? What if there was no WI?
Once I started turning a corner in my recovery, and began to feel stronger, physically and mentally, I became consumed by a fierce burning inside, a raw anger which forced me to look at my life from a new standpoint. There was of course, the pointless, deeply depressing recurring thought of “WI this had never happened to me? WI I was still a police officer?”, but I soon began to push those thoughts away, as I could sense they were dragging me down into a hole I would never be able to scramble out of. But here I was, age 32 and being told there were things I couldn’t do, things I had taken for granted, like the job I loved.
I realised that there were still many things that I COULD do. Things I had always wanted to do, but the fear of WI was too strong. After the unimaginable had happened to me, and I had survived, I realised that WI was pointless – it couldn’t protect me from what life had in store, and if that was the case what was the use in letting it dominate my life? FI pushed WI to one side and became a deafening roar.
I saw an advertisement for a local cycling class. WI popped up with a feeble “WI my bag is too noisy, the toilets are too far away, I’m too unfit to manage?”. But FI charged WI out of the way with a loud “FI!! I want to lose weight, get fit and so FI, who cares about the bag noise? I’m giving this a go”. I did the cycling class, became hooked, and met some members of the local triathlon club. I’d always wanted to do a triathlon, swimming, cycling and running being the 3 fitness activities I had always enjoyed the most over the years. WI stopped me from trying – WI it was too hard? WI I didn’t finish it? I then had the newer WI of WI if the bag leaked? WI I needed the toilet mid race? By now, FI was getting stronger, and so I thought FI, I’ll give a go, why not! Always wanted to try it, and I had a year when I thought I would never be able to do any exercise again. Now was my moment.
FI has often got me into trouble, of course, usually when it comes to my growing collection of animals in my menagerie. I decided that I would get some ex-commercial hens, throwing away a month’s pay on a fancy plastic hen house, and putting up a fence in the garden. I agreed with my husband that I would get 4 hens. Then 6 hens. On the day itself FI made a mockery of such planning and I came away with 8. Shortly afterwards, having long wanted a couple of rabbits, and despite the unequivocal “Absolutely not” from the husband, I waited until he went away and FI drove me to the local pet store. Harry and Jasper now live happily in our garden.
FI has been my companion for the last few years, as we laugh in the face of WI, trample on fear and get out there trying things out. My biggest regret at allowing this to happen surfaced as I was about to leap out of a plane at 15,000 feet, attached to a burly man with a parachute. WI could have battered FI to death there and then. But I did it (well, the burly man jumped and pulled me along with him), which gave me a feeling of euphoria and power at the end. It’s not the first time a burly man has left me with trembling legs, but that’s a story for another day.
The moral of my story is this. If you have a WI, get your FI to the front and give WI a shove. Preferably out of an aeroplane at 15,000 feet without a parachute.