My life is filled with worriers. It’s getting to the point where I am going to have to refuse any new friendships with people prone to excessive worry. It’s that bad. My husband and his entire immediate family are worriers, which I find quite interesting since they are some of the most fortunate people I’ve ever known. My husband will actually worry about things in the past. Seriously? Dude. They’re OVER. Move on already. And, now I realize he has passed this worry habit on to our oldest son. Joe’s constant worrying is about the only thing that worries me. Today he asked me to get rid of our stove so we won’t be killed in a natural gas explosion. Oy.
When I was young, I too worried a great deal. I worried about big things I could not control, like my parents dying or nuclear bombs exploding. I worried about ridiculous things too, like a sniper spraying our comfortable suburban home with bullets as I walked by a window or my being bitten by a shark (good luck with that while living in Colorado). On a smaller scale, if I didn’t finish my math assignment, I would be awake all night imagining that the next day the teacher would certainly call on me to answer the one problem I didn’t complete. I was a fairly neurotic child.
Then, during my 8th grade year, something marvelous happened: I got chickenpox during finals week of third quarter. My report card arrived the following week during spring break, and there were several Fs and incomplete grades. I was horrified because I had always been an A student. I sat there at home on spring break stressing about that report card and what it meant to my GPA. But, guess what? Nothing bad happened. I simply had to make up the tests, and the grades would be adjusted. It turned out to be no big deal.
I realized then that sometimes unfortunate things happen at inopportune times but the world continues. Of course, there are things that are far worse than not getting straight A grades. I understand my friends’ reasons for worry. But knowing that worrying about things will not change them, I have chosen not to waste my time. Some things are far beyond our realm of control (like our children dying unexpectedly) and other things can be remedied or will eventually work themselves out. And, even if they don’t, life goes on. Perhaps it goes on in a way we didn’t want it to, but it does indeed go on.
I saw a news story this morning about a suburban Denver mom who was driving her car when two tires came off a semi going the opposite direction on the highway. One of the tires bounced across the median in the interstate and landed directly on the roof above the driver’s seat. She was killed instantly. Her husband had been following her in another car and witnessed the event. It’s a horrible, tragic story. I bet her husband has been rolling around some “what if” thoughts in his head. But the fact remains that the what ifs don’t matter. All that matters is the outcome. Whatever happened happened. It’s our responses to life’s surprises that make a difference, not our anticipation of them.
If I had one wish for my friends, it would be that they relinquish worry. It is such an incredible waste of a mom’s precious energy and mental talents. I challenge you worriers (you know who you are) to resolve to move forward and stop wondering if your kids will turn out all right. They will. Choose to put your energy into changing things you truly have power over rather than considering things you can’t control. Accept that, although life is unpredictable, things have a way of working themselves out. Know that what ifs are worthless and just let them go. Vow to channel your inner Bobby McFerrin.
Don’t worry. Be happy.
(You’re singing it now, aren’t you?)