Saturday, January 5, 2013

When You Can't Just Look on the Bright Side

My husband says my family has a genius for worrying.

On the theory that it’s always the thing that you least expect that gets you, we consciously try to expect everything. The idea is, if we think of (and worry about) every possible bad thing that might happen, then they won’t happen.

A shortcut I used to do: I’d always gravely intone “Be careful” when someone headed out the door, even if it was just to the grocery store.
I used to do this, until my husband pleaded with me to stop.
Because it makes you feel CRAZY.
Plus, of course, it doesn’t work. Eventually, somewhere, sometime, something is going to get you.
Many studies tell us we should try to be optimists. Optimists live longer, have fewer health problems, stronger hearts, more robust immune systems, more life satisfaction … blah, blah, blah.
But other studies show that, when asked to assess a situation, pessimists are more accurate than optimists– and the most accurate assessments of all come from depressed people.
That sucks.
There is one person in my family who isn’t anxious, my father.  He’s also well-acquainted with reality.
Here’s how he once summed up his beliefs: “I don’t understand the universe. I think human minds may not be able to comprehend the universe. But even though pain and suffering and death exist, I believe the universe is good, not evil, and that we will get to see that in the end.”
He told me this just after learning he had cancer.
How can you think optimistically if optimism doesn’t seem so realistic? Maybe you don’t clamp down and try to control everything. Maybe you let go and trust.

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