If I Could Just.

Artwork by Lionel Kennaugh

Synonyms for ‘If’ are stipulation, proviso, or condition. Did you think that you had suddenly found yourself unexpectedly in the middle of an advanced grammar or linguistics lesson? You may be right! An if-clause is the protasis. The term protasis is used in linguistics, to refer to the subordinate clause (the if-clause) in a conditional sentence. In grammar, conditional sentences are sentences discussing factual implications or hypothetical situations and their consequences, this is how Wikipedia defines the word ‘if’ linguistically.

Confused yet? Not as confused as I was when I decided on this straightforward topic and decided to find the actual definition and use of the word. What got me onto this though is the number of times I find myself saying ‘If’ in a day. It harks to the future and the past. ‘If only I had ….’ And links to would have, could have and should-haves.

Whenever this little word appears, it magically transforms our thinking into the realm of past or future wishes and possibilities and robs us of the present moment. It is like wishing you had bought last week’s winning lotto ticket second hand.

This little word ‘if’ is often linked to another short word ‘just’. ‘If I could just’ ‘If you would just’ ‘If it would just’ ‘If I had just’ etc. All these statements take us out of the present moment whether you are referring to the past or the future in the statement the fact remains that you are then not in the present. In the context that I am using or thinking about ‘if’ it is a time bandit, robbing you of precious present moments.

This is not a new theme, in fact, I found myself saying this to someone ‘there never is a ‘perfect’ time for ‘if’ things go well ‘then’ I’ll be able to do XYZ’ Sometimes you must commit to something and let the ‘if’ take care of itself.

One of my favourite expressions, when I’m not sure of something, is to say, ‘I’m Iffy about that’. Using ‘if’ is very closely related to the ‘only when…., then I can syndrome’ and can be interchanged as the ‘Only if…………..then I can…….’ Syndrome. Waiting on ‘if’ keeps you marking time, on the same spot and never moving forward.

I remember being told once that changing the word ‘but’ to ‘and’ in a statement, particularly in the instance where you are perhaps giving some sort of negative feedback softens the report and changes it. For example, I really love you, but I find your behaviour disturbing, to I really love you, and I find your behaviour disturbing. This gives it a subtle and different meaning as the proviso and hesitation of ‘but’ is lost and replaced with ‘and’ it makes whoever is on the receiving end of this statement still feel unconditionally accepted despite their behaviour.

‘If’ always implies uncertainty. While we cannot always avoid using ‘if’ for example: If I get my car back in time from the mechanic, I will be able to give you a lift. There are times when one thing is unavoidably dependent on another. However, how about something like, if I earn X amount of money, I will buy a new car. To, Once I earn X amount of money, I will buy a new car. Does this not make your intention to earn more money to buy a new vehicle a firmer commitment of intent than ‘if’? Changing the ‘if’ to ‘once’ implies that ultimately buying a car is a certainty.

Remembering how great the progression of thoughts to words to actions is in the process of manifestation, then subtly and powerfully changing the thoughts and words impacts on the ultimate outcome. Changing the ‘if’ in negative responses also changes the meaning. If you would be more patient with yourself, you will find life a lot easier can become, practising more patience with yourself makes life a lot easier, it makes it a more definite and forceful statement.

How about fear-based ‘if’ statements? This is a lot trickier. If I lose my job, I may not be able to pay my rent. This is where ‘if’ becomes all too powerful. In this instance, it is a future possibility that has not yet happened. Try changing this statement to something like this: I imagine that in the event of losing my job, I may not be able to pay my rent. Although you are still expressing concern over future insecurity, there is once again a subtle difference in expressing doubt that you will keep your job.

Nevertheless, in its softer form, it robs the ‘if’ of its power to make us fearful. Also, remember that the realm of imagination allows us to deal with a possible future outcome without fear, as you can face that potential outcome and come up with a viable solution. Whereas ‘if’ not only implies doubt, it does not allow you to explore what you are going to do about the ‘if’ as most of us get stuck right there, in that fear.

I will agree that it is entirely impossible to leave the word ‘if’ out of our vocabulary altogether. Admittedly this may be a matter of nitpicking wordiness.  However, what I am pointing out is that changing the mindset when making fear-based statements using ‘if’ where it can be interchanged with another word makes a comment less scary and more positive. It is a bit of trickery on yourself. Nevertheless, this can lead to the practice of a more positive outlook.

You never really get the opportunity to stop and reflect, no matter who you are life generally goes on at a relentless pace, never slowing down to wait for us to catch up.

What I have come to realise is that there never is a perfect time to start something or decide or be with someone I want to be with or to express my feelings and emotions. While you are waiting for the world to stop turning so that you can get your ducks in flying formation, the world is going on with its business and leaving you behind.

Everything that needs doing or saying or expressing must be done in the here and now! Waiting around on ‘if’ is out of our control most of the time. What is in our control is always the present moment, our control over the future still relies on our actions and reactions and responses to whatever we are experiencing in the present moment.

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