Ratha told me that she had used the mantra “there was nothing else I wanted” to describe her attitude when she was driving to visit me for my birthday in February 2004. I've sort of been turning this over in my mind for a few weeks now, and also another mantra which I created.
“What if everything is basically all right?”
To those of us who came into the world already well-adjusted, the question might seem pointless. But to those of us who worry a lot, such as me, it almost seems threatening. “Nonsense,” I'm tempted to reply. It can't possibly be that things are basically okay. It's dangerous to even think that—it might make me stop being careful, and then I'd certainly lose everything I care about.
But still—what if everything is basically all right?
What if the large-scale decisions I've made so far—where to go to college, moving to Pittsburgh, the friends I've chosen, dating Ratha, contracting for a while, the potential job offer that I have now—were made for basically good reasons and have turned out more or less as I wanted them to, though there have certainly been setbacks? And what if even the setbacks have been learning experiences to prepare me for future plans?
What if the times I've realized I was unreasonable, I was? But what if it was okay for me to have been unreasonable in those cases, because it taught me a lot? What if my friendships actually are friendships and have a reasonable value, not an absurdly high value that makes it worthwhile to sacrifice everything for them but not an absurdly low value that makes them worthless?
What if I'm able to deal with any situation that comes up by just figuring out the reasonable thing to do—no, not even the reasonable thing, but some reasonable thing—and doing it? What if the world is not out to destroy me one failure at a time and even the most tangled of knots can be cut through in Gordian style?
It's not a sure thing, of course. But this mode of thinking is so different from the one I've typically used that it seems worth inhabiting for a while, to feel out its boundaries. And it certainly feels better to be a little optimistic—it motivates me to actually do the things I've been telling myself I should do for years (and with good reason, in many cases) and thus becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy in the exact opposite way from excessive anxiety. I smile more.
What if everything is basically all right?