What if everything goes right?
…is a question I rarely ask myself. It’s in my temperament to worry. Science may prove me wrong, but I am certain my propensity for worrying is hereditary. My paternal grandmother passed the gene down the family tree.
Worrying is mostly an internal process. Most of us try to keep it locked up so as not to trouble those around us. Sometimes worrying looks a lot like planning. Like the Boy Scouts, worriers know the foundation to success is to always be prepared. We may come across as rigid, uptight, or anal. In actuality, we’re deeply concerned with ensuring our loved ones (and ourselves) are safe and happy.
My grandmother, matriarch of worry, planned family vacations for 25 people down to the minute. Her itineraries were masterpieces of forethought. She once bought me a dress for a formal party just in case I didn’t have one packed. When I slipped that dress on I felt like a movie star walking the red carpet. She kept greeting cards for every possible occasion in an accordion folder organized by date. After my grandmother passed away, my grandfather continued to send birthday and Christmas cards that had been tucked so thoughtfully into that folder.
Worrying about the logistics of transporting 25 people from their bungalows to a snorkeling outing in an efficient and timely manner probably seems reasonable. A departure time and drivers are necessary to get 25 people onto a boat and into fins and snorkel masks. Another more incendiary type of worry has less to do with preparedness and more to do with feelings of inadequacy. This type of worry ambushes your sense of reason.
On Monday, a lightning bolt of social media inspiration struck the earth. My poor, poor fledgling account deserves all the care and development it can get. When inspiration strikes, it’s in my best interest to act immediately without question. Like many of my Instagram sparks of inspiration, this one petered out by lunchtime. The final Instagram Story was a photo of the piece of gluten-free toast I made for lunch stacked with the last remnants of food from my fridge. I captioned the image “Boring GSD*: Cleaning out the Fridge,” and wrote the ingredients used for the toast.
Four hours later a friend of mine responded. “Who are you? Me?”
This particular friend is like glitter for your soul. She’s the type of person who takes fangirl to the next level, celebrating her friends’ successes whether it be a book deal or a dance recital.
She is also an accomplished photographer with a reputation for stunning food photography, often vegan, always vegetarian. I’m selling her short right now, because she has a reputation for a long list of other photographic talents. For the purpose of this story we’re focusing on food, in particular, her love of a good toast photo. She lays a base of avocado, cashew cream cheese, or something else vegan and wonderful, before stacking greens, pickled vegetables, and a sprinkling of a delicious and aesthetically pleasing seasoning. She takes a beautiful, professionally styled photograph, edits the photo and adds it to her perfectly branded Insta Stories. Everything she shares is bright, colorful, sharply focused, and inarguably gorgeous.
As a reminder, everything I share is “Well, I’m sure she’s doing her best.” (Are you following my Instagram account? Even if the photos are sub-par, the effort and storytelling are A+. Besides, if you’re reading this right now it means you believe in me SO BELIEVE IN ME ON INSTAGRAM TOO. Thank you).
Those words, “Who are you? Me?” were exactly the call to arms my worry warriors had been waiting for. They sensed that my respect for her accomplishments could be manipulated into using her years of hard work as a measuring stick to mark my slow progress at the beginning of my career.
Is she kidding? Is she being playful? She was so supportive of my efforts. She sent my newsletter to her mom. What if she isn’t kidding? What if she thought my toast photo was a poor imitation of how she earns her livelihood? Does she think I’m ripping her off? Are we going to stop speaking to each other? But I love her so much! I don’t want to lose her friendship! Are we breaking up over toast?
In seven seconds, worry staged a successful coup, overthrowing reason with ambushes, raids, and petty warfare. The Worry Warrior Manifesto is built on one founding principle: inadequacy. The content of their text is borrowed from a childhood rhyme, “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, guess I’ll eat some worms.”
The new regime’s first proclamation was to grovel for forgiveness. “I’m sorry I shared a photo of vegan toast when I know you share photos of vegan toast too. Please know how much I appreciate your friendship and support and know I would never intentionally harm our relationship,” I felt compelled to beg.
Luckily, the counter-insurgency of reason was stronger than the guerrilla worry warriors.
Instead of groveling for forgiveness for an imaginary crime, I made a joke using Notting Hill as my template. Then, I waited. And waited. And waited. Protests shots of worry started to fire. The longer it took for her to reply, the more worrying I did about the state of our friendship. Even after she wrote back later that night without a hint of malice in her messages, I worried. Pops of gunfire continued in my subconscious into the morning.
When I woke up, it was clear the insurgents had gained traction. My brain was so consumed with worry that when it was time to leave for yoga, I walked out of my house in furry house slippers without my mat.
Blissfully, while I was in class, she texted four times. I opened the texts with fear, but not panic. Reason still held a tentative power.
As anyone governed by reason may have deduced, everything was fine…primarily because the problem had only ever existed in my mind.
“What if everything goes right?” is unlikely to ever become my life’s motto for most situations. I believe in preparing for things to go terribly wrong because it earns me kudos from my friends like, “most useful in case of zombie apocalypse” and “best purse to always find a snack or tampon.” More importantly, it’s in my temperament to prepare for everything.
When the more incendiary worry sets about sabotaging reason, it’s worth the effort to fight back. This type of worry is too nasty, the stakes are too high not to ask myself, but, what if everything does go right?
*Get Sh*t Done