This is a poem that I wrote very recently. The idea was sparked when watching something on television – I can’t remember what it was – and a character was suffering with their health. However, the character’s only concern was for her son who despite being an adult, was still lazily reliant on his mother to do everything for him. While the character was expressing these worries to a nurse and saying that she had to get back home to prepare something for the son, the nurse simply replied with,
“What would happen if you didn’t?”
At that point only 10% of my attention remained on the TV. Instead, I found myself reaching for a notepad and thinking about consequences and things that would complete the question. Having written the poem, I still think there’s a lot of other things to consider when asking the question. In fact, it’s one I may well revisit.
I thought about all of the genuine responsibilities we have in life, as well as the things that sometimes we obsess about or feel that we can’t do without. What would happen if we just didn’t do them? I ended up with a kind of spider diagram of notes that I tried to turn into a poem some time later. I think it’s about as finished as it’s going to get (for now), so here you go!
What would happen if you didn't? Sometimes life can feel like just an ever-growing list of things to do, stuff to worry about and stress over, an abundance of tasks, instructions and nagging doubts designed to make you feel like you're failing. So what would happen if you didn't? What would happen if you didn't smile at strangers? Would they care or even notice any less whether you're there? What would happen if you didn't care about your career? Would your work be any better or any worse? Would it even be noticed? What would happen if you didn't count the calories? Would you inflate to the size of a balloon, would your life expectancy decrease dramatically? Would you even notice any change at all? Would you just be happier? What would happen if you didn't wear a tie to work? Would they react differently to you? Would you mix up your words, send less professional emails, tell the bosses what you really think because that lack of a tie has loosened every inhibition you ever had? What would happen if you didn't answer their questions? What would happen if you didn't alphabetise your records? Would your musical world fall apart, would you never listen to some of them again or would you have to find another system to sate your need for control? What would happen if you didn't care about a football team? What would you spend your time thinking about? Would you finally be happy? Could you ditch the superstition and bear to use any old mug on a Saturday, wear any t-shirt you like? Could you just relax, for once? What would happen if you didn't renew the breakdown cover? Would you just break down, deflate or run out of steam? Would your car pull over in a brazen act of defiance at your flagrant lack of insurance? What would happen if you didn't dance with abandon in the kitchen? Actually, maybe life wouldn't be worth living. And what would happen if you didn't listen at night for your heartbeat? Chances are you'd still wake up in the morning, right as rain.
I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this poem. I know what I was trying to get at and the feelings that I was trying to get across. It’s about those foibles that we probably all have and that we probably all imagine we couldn’t live without, as well as the everyday, routine things that the majority of us feel life’s about, like going to work.
The point about the poem and the question for me is that I think I’m at an age where I’m beginning to feel tired of doing the same old things, while still finding that I get an awful lot of comfort from them. ‘What would happen if you didn’t’ is definitely a question that I’m asking of myself more and more though.