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!