Very Little is Really That Big a Deal

If I had my life to live over, I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d have fewer imaginary ones.

~Don Herold

Why is it that the truth is often the most annoying thing anyone can say?  The single most infuriating thing someone can say to me is, “You need to just relax.”  It’s true; I know it’s true.  I do need to relax.  I am a serious worrier.  If worrying were a competitive sport, I would win.  Every time.

But here’s the thing: lately I have noticed a pattern to the results of my worries, and the pattern is that none of the things I worry about ever happen.  Or, if they do happen, they are a million times easier to deal with than the knots I had twisted myself into worrying about their possibility.

Here is a list, by no means comprehensive and in no sort of order, of things I have spent significant amounts of time (which I will define as 30 hours or more of thought) worrying about.

  • Being torn apart by dogs.
  • Discovering that I have _____ . (Fill in here every disease in existence that includes the symptom of a random abdominal, head or chest pain.)
  • Going to prison.  (Ok, this was more like five hours, but it was a very intense five hours.)
  • Killer bees.
  • Flying across oceans.  Now, my concern with flying is not the usual one that the plane might crash or malfunction and go down in flames.  Nor is it the more modern worry of a terrorist hijacking.  No, my airplane worry — and it seriously freaks me out — is that I will be half way over the Pacific, hours from anything, and be hit by an attack of appendicitis that requires immediate medical attention.
  • That if I do not do something perfectly, it will be the first step on a slippery slope toward a life of misery on the street.
  • Being late.
  • That the thump/squeak I just heard really was someone coming to murder me.
  • The Gulf War.  (Ok, this one actually obviously was a big deal for a lot of people.  It did not, however, lead to the brutal end of the world scenario I had imagined at the time.)
  • What if one of those religions that believes in hell is right?  Considering I’m not a member of any of them, that means I’m probably going to hell.  Forever.  (I guess the jury would actually be out on whether this one will turn out to be a big deal or not.)
  • Acid rain.
  • That someone I care about has been hit by a car and killed.  With the exception of one consistently tardy friend, this is more or less where my brain goes if anyone I am supposed to meet is more than ten minutes late and has not called to let me know.
  • Exams.
  • Inadvertently having offended someone.  I can rehash the same conversation or email thousands of times and dig myself into a well of guilt.

Tip of the iceberg.  I just realised I could probably keep going on with this list all night and it’s bedtime, so I must stop.

I have a point.  None of these worries came to anything much.  Most of them didn’t come to anything at all.  The ones that came to something were fixable.

How many hours, days, weeks, months, YEARS have I wasted worrying about this stuff?  I do not want to add it up, but I am pretty sure it would be a significant slice on the pie chart that is my life.  What good did it do me?  None.  It probably harmed me actually.  I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the stress is what caused the random abdominal pains.  There’s a vicious cycle if ever I’ve heard of one.

So I’m thinking it’s time to let it all go.  Here is a quotation I read a while ago:  “If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless, in the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can’t be solved.”  They didn’t give a source.  I think it’s some zen thing.  But I think I really need to internalize this one.  Of all the time –the life — I have wasted doing dumb stuff, this is the wasted time I resent the most.

No more borrowing trouble, I say.  What will happen will happen.  And whatever that is, it’s going to be ok.

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