By patti dawn swansson
Many years ago, the managing editor at my newspaper du jour presented me with an assignment that appeared to be too daunting a task to take on.
“We want you to put together an eight-page supplement on the World Curling Championships every day until it’s over,” he instructed me.
“Eight pages?” I gasped. “Every day? For seven days?”
“Well, Lyle, that’s going to be a problem because I have to put out two curling pages in the main sports section, so if you toss another eight pages at me I’ll be laying out 10 pages every night. That’s a big problem.”
He looked at me with a sly smile.
“There are no problems,” he said as he turned and walked away, “just challenges.”
I’ve never forgotten that brief exchange with Lyle Sinkewicz, because he was absolutely correct. When we view something as a problem, it carries the negative vibe of worry. We fear failure. If, on the other hand, we look at it as a challenge, we adopt a positive mind-set. We convince ourselves that we can succeed. We are, as they say, up for the challenge and attack it with gusto.
We all know that life is a challenge. We also know that none of us gets out alive (in our present form). So why worry? Enjoy the ride.
Unfortunately, we don’t always allow ourselves daily joy because we’re forever worrying. The issue could be our job, our home, our children, our mortgage, our health, our weight, our vacation, our retirement, an addiction, etc. Some of us worry about what others think and say about us. Whatever the case, we spend an inordinate amount of time in a fretsome posture over things that don’t exist, except in our imagination.
This is how Mark Twain put it: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”
For example, I have a friend who once wounded his ribs in a baseball game. He and an outfielder met in a nasty collision while chasing a fly ball and, following the game, breathing became a burden while he and his mates were enjoying a post-game pint. He thought he might have punctured a lung. So, rather than go directly home, he went to the hospital for x-rays. It turned out he had cracked and bruised ribs. That, in itself, caused him no worry. What the doctor said next did, though.
“What do I see here?” he wondered aloud as he held an x-ray up to a light. “There are spots here on your lungs. What can this be? I’ll have to have someone else look at these, so you’ll have to come back tomorrow.”
My friend, who had never smoked a cigarette in his life, went home, convinced he had lung cancer. He spent a sleepless night, cursing his father, who smoked, his two brothers, both of whom smoked, a sister, who smoked, and a wife, who smoked.
“If I have lung cancer from second-hand smoke,” he vowed, “someone’s going to pay.”
Well, those “spots” weren’t on his lungs at all. There was a defect on the x-ray sheet. So, my friend agonized for an entire night and a large portion of the following day over something that didn’t exist.
We’re all guilty of this.
We worry about what might be. And we usually fear the worst. Think about it. If you’ve ever been out of work, for example, you’re in a constant state of worry. You scour the ads on Craigslist and Kijiji and apply for one job. Then another. Then another. You finally get an interview and you worry about that. After the interview, you worry about how you presented yourself and your answers. You scour the want ads some more and begin to worry about the bills and rent that are due or past due. You worry about living off your credit card. You look into a kitchen cupboard and worry about your next meal. Friends, meanwhile, tell you not to worry because “something will come up.” But you’ve now been unemployed for six months, so it’s just lip service. Basically, you are sick with worry. Eventually, of course, something does come along and it is often better than your previous job. So what did you gain by all the worry, other than perhaps an ulcer?
Parenting is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of our lives. Parents are in a non-stop state of worry and the tides of concern are constantly in ebb and flow. The 10-year-old daughter isn’t even in a training bra, yet the father is already worried about the boy she will bring home one day. When the family is invited over to a friends’ home for dinner, the mother worries that she’ll be looked upon as a poor parent if little Johnny raises hell or refuses to eat his vegetables. Therefore, she sits on pins and needles the entire evening and cannot enjoy the experience of sharing quality time with dear ones.
We know there are trials and tribulations laying in wait on the road ahead, some of them serious, but why get bent out of shape before we arrive there? Why are we so anxious to arrive at tomorrow ahead of schedule? We cannot arrive at tomorrow ahead of schedule. None of us can. So why sweat it?
Worrying is an extremely exhausting mental exercise. Five minutes of worry can siphon more energy from you than five days of chopping wood.
When we find ourselves in a non-worry space, we’ll find something new to worry about. It’s as if we invent things to worry about. Then we begin to worry about worrying too much.
Many of us worry about our health, especially those of us of a certain vintage. I have kidney disease. When it was first diagnosed four years ago, it was a most worrisome bit of business. It dominated my thought process. I contemplated little else and did much research on the matter. You can only imagine what wild notions bubbled to the surface when I discovered there is no cure for kidney disease. My concern definitely intensified. My mortality moved to the forefront. Today, however, I seldom contemplate my kidney disease. I only think about it when I’m required to go for my regularly scheduled blood tests. But it no longer bums me out, because I realize worrying will not give me healthy kidneys. It is what it is.
You have, no doubt, heard the expression “it is what it is” many times. People often say it when they are dealing with a thorny issue and, rather than allow it to swallow them whole like Jonah and the great fish, they choose to accept what is directly in front of them and soldier on. That is living in the present, which is what we must do in order to lessen our worry.
All of us have experienced a past. All of us hope to experience a future. All of us are challenged by life’s many twists, turns and detours. All of us, at times, scream “Stop the world, I want to get off!” But we don’t truly wish to get off the ride that is life. It’s too enjoyable, even more so when we don’t see the boogeyman hiding around every corner.
Yesterday is gone and you can’t fix today what might not happen tomorrow. We have no control over the future, thus we must centre our being in the present. All we truly have is this very moment. So don’t worry. Live in the moment and live the moment.