The Rescue of a Worrywart

The Rescue of a Worrywart

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reader's Choice 20th Anniversary Edition

The Rescue of a Worrywart

Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.

~Benjamin Franklin

I was born a worrier. If my cries in the delivery room had been translated, I’m sure I was saying, “Careful, Doc. Don’t drop me! Watch out for that table edge!”

I worried all through elementary school, especially when I had a substitute teacher. I panicked, my stomach churned, and I felt sick and ready to throw up. With each substitute, the school had to phone my mother to come and get me. Once I was safely home, I instantly recovered.

I worried when it stormed. (What if the water rose up and we drowned? Yes, even in our hilltop house!) I worried when I met new people. (Would anyone want to know me?) And later I worried when I went on a trip. (Had I left some electric appliance turned on that would burn down the house while I was gone?)

Then, one day, life smacked me in the head with a genuine problem.

The phone rang, and the doctor on the other end said, “You have invasive breast cancer.”

My worrying went into overdrive, keeping me awake at night and following me during the day.

It was at that point I read Chicken Soup for the Cancer Survivor’s Soul. One particular page contained advice that seemed as if it had been written just for me.

The short piece was called “Two Things Not to Worry About,” and said, in effect, hey girl, don’t worry about things you can’t change, because what’s the use? And don’t worry about the things you can change; instead get busy and change them.

The words rang true, nestled in my brain, and calmed my anxious heart. They made me realize that I was accomplishing nothing with my worrying except upsetting myself. Worry wouldn’t solve problems, heal my cancer, or change anything. It was a complete waste of energy.

In accepting the advice in the book, I felt a huge burden lift from my shoulders. I was freer than I had ever been.

During long days of chemotherapy and radiation, I carefully divided everything into two camps: the things I could do something about, and those I couldn’t.

When I entered what I call the second phase of my life (life after cancer), I approached it with a new attitude and a lighter spirit. And to remind myself, in case I fell into my old ways, I printed out the advice from the book and added it to a poster board on which I had pasted pictures of things I wanted to accomplish — a kind of a pictorial “bucket list.”

Now, fourteen years later, when I look at what I still want to do or places I want to go, I am reminded that in this life of mine, I can’t control everything. Some things still simply are what they are, and worrying won’t change them. The rest? The things I can control? I need to get off my butt and do something about them.

It’s only a change in attitude, but the words I read that afternoon while in the middle of the worst crisis of my life have made all the difference in how I am living the rest of it.

~Michele Ivy Davis

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