For Christmas, about ten years ago, my sainted wife bought me a plane ticket to head to Dallas to spend some time with my best friend who I hadn’t seen in person in a couple of years. The ticket was for mid-April. I was furious.
Not that I had to wait so long to see him but that I had to agonize over the flight for four months. I worried a lot about flying at the time, or more accurately, the sudden cessation of flying otherwise known as crashing. I’d flown a dozen or more times without incident but I still couldn’t get my lizard-brain to understand how this massive metal bird was able to get off the ground and stay there. Surely I was destined to be one of those people with their name on a memorial somewhere due to a bad O-ring.
For months I found myself experiencing what were likely fun-sized panic attacks. I’d be irritable and have minor blow ups over nothing. Just me and the background music of my own 500mph plummet into the earth playing in my mind. A video loop of my oldest son looking like JFK Jr. saluting my empty coffin – you know, because I’d been turned into a Rob-Gazpacho by the crash? Why couldn’t I stop with this awful coming attractions loop on repeat?
Spoilers; I didn’t die on that flight or any of the thirty or so I’ve been on since then. I knew statistically that I had a better chance of getting stalked by Britney Spears, and yet. Why the hell was I so worried? Why are we all worried about so much that has such little chance of actually occurring?
Once, when I was 18 I bought a lottery ticket and worried for a few days about which of my friends I’d bring to buy matching Porsches. Seriously. I was certain I’d win like $100 Million and I reasoned I’d only buy matching 911s for five of my friends but what would I say to friend number six? I swear I’m not actually this dumb IRL.
Psychology Today has a few suggestions for why we worry and how we can stop. Feel free to read at your leisure. For me, I think it had something to do with my concern for my fledging family and what would happen to them if I was gone. I didn’t like imagining them all alone without a mountain of money to break their fall and the cash was only amounting to a respectable pitchers mound at the time.
I think it was this trip a decade back where I realized I was doing myself (and those around me) a disservice by not letting my rational brain take the wheel. It was always going to be fine. I’d spent so much time and energy uncomfortable over something as routine as falling asleep. From then on I’d only get more comfortable on flights with my nerves only appearing in the 30 seconds around takeoff as the engines fired up.
Why in the hell was I letting worry drive the ship when it couldn’t stop getting the directions wrong? If my brain was like the movie “Inside Out” why would the other parts of my brain possibly let Worry take the helm when it was so often wrong? Enough of that. Rationality bitch-slapped Worry and save for a handful of moments, it’s been smooth sailing ever since.
Plenty of what we worry about will never happen. The trip home will be safe. This shopping cart doesn’t have Aids. Canada isn’t going to invade and put those Nickelback on the money. It’s all stuff we need to hear from time to time.
What was the last thing you worried about that you realized in retrospect had no chance of happening?