On NOT Borrowing Trouble —

First out of the box to suggest an improv post, Marge Katherine of  Inside-Out Café:

Ok! How about you write a post about this quote “Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight,” by Benjamin Franklin and relate it back to your life!

You got it, Marge, and what an appropriate selection for me. How many minutes, hours, days, months, literally years of precious life have I wasted doing exactly that: worrying about things that, in the event, never did happen. Or went ahead and happened even though I’d magically tried to ward them off by worrying about them. (Anybody else ever succumbed to magical thinking?) Or even, sometimes, happened and actually turned out to be great opportunities or happy circumstances.

What a waste!

As for anticipating trouble, I’m a world champion. It’s my normal nature since I was a tiny girl. There are photographs of a two-year-old and a three-year-old and a four-year old with an unchildlike furrow between her brows, with anxious unchildlike eyes. But I went further as I grew, I honed my worrying skills by insatiably reading mystery stories, of which the very essence is that terrible/unexpected/unsuspected/out-of-left-field things are always about to happen anywhere from Page 1 onward.

Anticipating trouble and worrying about what may never happen: that can serve very nicely as a clinical description of anxiety.  I can tell you this authoritatively: anxiety saps determination, optimism, enthusiasm, resourcefulness. It saps energy. George Bernard Shaw in Man and Superman wrote a lot about the Life Force. Anxiety might be called a Death-in-life force.

And Benjamin Franklin, that pragmatic wit, has caught exactly the condition in which anxiety leaves one: in darkness. To keep in the sunlight! Wonderful advice, not always so easy to achieve. For me, now in the secure harbor of my seventieth decade, I try to keep in the sunlight, and to an amazing degree  —it amazes me whenever I think about it!— manage to do so.

How did I get from there, the darkness of anxiety, to here, the sunlight of everyday “ordinary” life? Years of psychotherapy, for one thing. A 52-year-marriage to an optimist and all-around wonderful person. (That he remains an optimist after a 52-year-marriage to me speaks volumes for his essential sunniness.) But there’s something more and other, harder to specify. I feel it, but find it hard to describe.

Perhaps it’s a kind of trust, a kind of confidence, a kind of acceptance, all blended together. A trust that I can and will survive until my end; that things change, that the hands of the clock are never stuck at midnight but that the sun will rise and the sun will set, with or without my aid. A confidence that happiness comes just as certainly as sorrow, if we allow it to. That we live, not all of life and time at once, but simply moment to moment. And it’s also a keen sense of “enough,” what is enough of anything. That was one of the triumphant moments in my therapy, when I truly understood that there was such a thing as enough, and I could experience it. And there is a real acceptance that the sunlight is a choice. That the essential power is in me to choose, to bless or to curse, the sunlight or the darkness.

Which brings me back to my beginnings, when the Bible would have been the place I turned to first for apt quotation. I think I’m describing here the fulfillment of the verse in Deuteronomy that always caught my attention, but which now I begin to think I may actually understand:

Behold, I set before you this day life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that you may live.

Thank you for inspiration, Marge Katherine and Ben Franklin!

This entry was posted in Challenge, Life and Death, Personal Essay, Quotes and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to On NOT Borrowing Trouble —

  1. Almost forty years ago, a dear friend told me “You have to stop worrying about August in April”. This post reminded me of that day. A day I never forgot. Sad, but I still don’t ‘naturally’ practice that advice. Luckily, that friend is still a very big part of my life. Long as I live and breathe, I will never give up. And, she, my friend, is my Benjamin Franklin.
    Good suggestion, Marge.
    Great post, T2T.


  2. grand-player says:

    Never trouble trouble, til trouble troubles you.


  3. it is sad but true that too many of us spend a lot of our life energy worrying about August in April. I try to be concious of not doing this and yet sometimes get sucked into that horrible state of worry and anxiety. But I have learned that the sun will still rise tomorrow morning and that no matter what comes my way, I will live through it, one grace filled moment at a time. excellent post.


  4. thirdhandart says:

    Sounds like you have it under control T2T. I’m still working on it.
    The problem of life is to change worry into thinking, and anxiety into creative action.
    ~Harold B. Walker


    • Touch2Touch says:

      We never have it under control, Theresa, at least I don’t think so.
      But we can get clearer and more efficient about the tools to handle the fires!

      I like your Harold Walker quote a lot, it’s a terrific blueprint for what to do —


  5. Gilly Gee says:

    What a lovely post!


  6. Wonderful post and words of wisdom! I’m a huge worry wart. It doesn’t help that these days with Google, worry warts are able to google themselves into a state of panic over nothing 🙂 Thankfully I married someone who takes each day as it comes. It’s slowly rubbing off on me and I’m hoping after many years of marriage, I too will be able to keep it in the sunlight 🙂


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Being aware of our tendency to worry is really helpful.
      Another thing that helps — ease off excessive Googling the news! Just because media has to fill up with news (usually dire) 24/7 doesn’t mean you need to follow the same unhealthy diet!
      (I know how tempting it is, so try and find some neat alternative that’s even more tempting 😉


  7. Marilyn de Guzman says:

    Don’t worry about anything that hasn’t happened yet.
    Don’t worry about anything over which you have no control.
    Don’t ask questions you already know the answers to.
    Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.

    Four rules for myself.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Hmmmmm. That doesn’t leave a lot to worry about.
      And cuts out a ton of questions!
      No wonder you’re so light and free to move and think, my dear friend —

      What especially resonates for me: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to!


  8. I don’t borrow trouble. The interest rate and the penalties are way too high. 🙂


  9. Stef says:

    52 years of marriage to an optimist; methinks that might be some of the best therapy possible! 🙂 Kudos to you both on your amazing decades of accomplishment.


  10. reb says:

    *Don’t worry about things that may or may not happen in the future. If you do, you have to worry TWICE*

    I read that somewhere, and I’ve tried to keep it in mind. It doesn’t really help.

    I read this post the day before yesterday, and I’ve thought of it since. It resonated with me — I look at old photos of myself as a child/young person, and I see the same kind of furrow …

    It’s really difficult to control ones own thoughts like that, but my last eight years have been together with a likewise optimistic person and that helps.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      It’s simply a fact that worrying about the future means worrying twice, once for sure, and maybe again IF it should happen.
      Yours is a very interesting comment, Rebekah. (Not that that’s any surprise, yours usually are.)

      I don’t actually believe we can control our thoughts. What is controllable can be our recognition and assessment of our thoughts, and therefore our response to them, whether we encourage and develop them, or gently (or not-so-gently) dismiss them.
      Calls for detachment, learning to panic less readily, and — yes indeed, here come the optimists — learning to smile more readily!
      😀 for today!


      • reb says:

        So true, and I’ve learnt to dismiss — in fact I’ve come a long way! Otherwise I wouldn’t have burnt all bridges and moved to another country, for starters … and these eight years with ‘the optimist’, have made a difference up to a point.


  11. Pauline says:

    I set the kitchen timer for 15 minutes and then worry, worry, worry, imagining the worst and the most plausible consequences, and then, when the time goes off, I put the thought on the I’ve-already-worried-about-that-don’t-have-to-worry-about-it-again shelf and get on with things.

    If you had not told me, I would not have thought you to be an excessive worrier. Of course, I met you when you were already well along the road to optimism (bless Frank) 🙂


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh yeah, excessive is an understatement. (Get that for an oxymoron.)
      But your 15-Minutes-by-the-Kitchen-Timer idea is WONDERFUL, so pragmatic. Been there, done that, move on —
      Love it!


  12. When all else fails, I say this…over and over (and over) again:

    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    Courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    There is a certain peace about it that quiets the worry.


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh yes! You prompt me to remember, there have been months and months and months at a stretch in past years when that “mantra” held me together.
      It’s wonderful that way, a deep deep comfort and peace.


  13. I adore your understanding of ENOUGH! Enough worrying, enough second guessing, enough rewriting, enough questioning. We love to be around people who act with strength and certainty, don’t we? Perhaps they question their actions but then they let go and move on.

    When we worry, we lose precious moments from the ‘here and now’ and we can’t get those back again! Now, that’s something to worry about!


    • Touch2Touch says:

      Well said, Marge. Think and think, prepare and prepare — then “let go and move on.”
      It’s true, we gain much strength and encouragement from the people who dare to act.

      (It’s easy enough to distinguish between foolhardy and courageous, too, so that’s another thing NOT to worry about.)


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