At the outset I need to clarify that although I am a fully paid up member of the WI Club it has absolutely nothing to do with jam or Jerusalem! The perfect Victoria sandwich continues to elude me, regardless of sound advice from Delia Smith over many years. I have great admiration for the members of the WI and the many initiatives they are involved in, from saving the bees to influencing governments on climate change and supermarkets on food waste. However, the WI that I belong to is nowhere near as positive as this and can in fact have a truly negative impact on my life.
So why on earth do I stay a member of this other organisation? Well, the truth is that I have been involved for so many years it isn't easy to step away from it. It isn't the Women's Institute; it's the 'What If' organisation. Joining is easy - with no annual subscription, no irritating e-mails, no meetings to attend, no campaigns to support, no fundraising to do. In fact, the only thing needed to maintain my membership takes place in my head, in my imagination and in my thinking.
So what exactly is the 'What If' organisation all about? It's very simple. Take a basic example like needing to drive somewhere 100 miles away. Members would respond with: What if the weather is bad? What if I get stuck in traffic? What if the car breaks down? What if I am involved in a multi-car pileup on the motorway? What if, what if, what if ... you get the idea. In fact, the longer you stay in the WI the more likely you are to skip the early scenarios and go straight to the worst case! A headache immediately becomes a neurological crisis. A moody teenager in the house becomes an addiction waiting to happen.
As I write this, I readily accept it is a crazy way to live. Yet, at the risk of further confirming my weirdness to those who know me, I have to say that far too often this has been the pattern in my life. I know that it shouldn't be this way. I know that I should take things one step at a time. I know I should not cross bridges before I come to them. However, the theory and practice of taking what we know and living in the strength of it can often be poles apart.
Recently I have seen someone very close to me go through an extremely challenging situation. I watched, helplessly, as they became a fully paid up member of the WI. I found myself saying to them all the things that others had said to me in the past, but at the same time seeing them trapped in their own thinking. They just wanted it to be over and for life to get back to normal. How many times have I been there?
Seeing this at first hand in someone so close finally made me realise the futility of living this way. I'd like to say that in an instant my thinking was changed - but not quite! However, it has been a start. I'm learning that if I really believe what I say I believe, trusting God to be sovereign and in complete control of my life, then I have to start to reduce my membership of the WI. I'm learning the value of living in the moment and not projecting forward to the worst extremes.
I'm sure there will be times when I fail, but the great thing about God is that I can refocus my attention on Him and begin again. There will be things in life that are just too big to cope with and fears will take control - our worst nightmare already becoming a reality in our minds. In those moments I particularly need to focus on my present place and only move to the next stage if it really emerges.
Looking back, it is abundantly clear that so many of my 'what if' scenarios never actually came to fruition. Living in the light of this though is not easy to do - trust me, I know! However, with God's help I'm hoping to continue the start I have made over the last couple of months and at least reduce my WI membership from the premium package to the no-frills subscription.
As for membership of the other WI - more practice on my Victoria sandwich is definitely needed. Maybe I'll see what Mary Berry has to offer ...