The most antagonistic, irksome, unnecessary phrase in the English language is “don’t worry.” Just typing it onto a page is irritating. Some people tend to use it when they are completely at a loss for words but feel that some type of encouragement must be given. Others use it, I’m convinced, just to hear the sound of their own voice.
Before my late wife, Joan, was diagnosed with stage four cancer – there is no stage five – she was not feeling well. To put it bluntly, she was feeling like crap, yet true to her calling as one of the world’s very few Roman Catholic Christian Scientists, she refused to see a doctor. It was infuriating. She insisted on cooking dinner every evening and was adamant that I should not go near the stove, microwave, or oven. My offers to make veal Marsala, chicken piccata, or any meal of any type were spurned time and time again. My admonishments and that of the children that we were concerned that she didn’t seem to be getting better were met with, “Oh stop worrying; it’s only the flu,” or, “Don’t worry; I’ll be fine.” Yes, you are correct in you assumption that even a flu shot was considered something akin to witch doctor medicine. Eventually, of course, she did see a nurse practitioner. Thirteen months later she was dead.
I’ve always thought of worry as being a good thing. “Oh, you worry too much,” people would say before something I was planning was to take place. “Don’t worry; it’ll be great,” folks would tell me. Know what? They were wrong…but they were right. My experience has been that the more I worried about something that required major planning, the fewer things went wrong. The more my stomach curdled a day or two before a commencement ceremony or some other special programming, the better the program result. Sure, in hindsight, it’s very easy to see the reason why. It wasn’t the responsibility of others to ensure success, ergo, don’t worry because they weren’t worried. I’m not certain who said it, although it’s been attributed to many, but I always liked the quote, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”
There must be people in the world who don’t worry about anything. If not, why is the world so screwed up? I mean, think about it. Who told the captain of the Titanic, “Hey, don’t worry. Nothing can possibly sink this ship.” Oops! And who said to the Emperor of Japan, “Don’t worry; they’re just bluffing about some super weapon.” Double oops. We can all recount horror stories where we’ve been told not to worry, and then things turn out that prove we were right to worry.
I’m not saying that we should worry about every little thing. However, you know that mole on your back? Give it some thought; get it checked out; worry about it. You know that rattle that you can’t explain in the front of the car…yeah, worry about that one too, and get the damned thing checked out. You know the Super Bowl bet you made with one of your office buddies? Don’t worry about it. Win or lose, the world will not come to an end. On the other hand, if the money you be was to be used for next summer’s vacation with the family…yeah, worry about how you’re going to explain it to them if you lose. Better yet, you should have thought twice…no, three times…before making the bet…you idiot!
Excessive worrying is, obviously, not good. Worrying about whether there is a terrorist in your neighborhood; will a nuclear war begin tomorrow; how badly will genetically modified foods affect the brains of my children or grandchildren? These are stupid worried. You can’t do a thing about them. This is where “don’t worry” is a good thing. If you want to worry, how about this: “Can you afford to buy groceries and medicines and pay next month’s rent?” That’s a good worry. Worry helps you in several ways: (1) it forces you to make a plan; (2) it allows you to see the repercussions of your planning, which (3) makes you pay attention to detail that leads to (4) your plan generally being air tight. “Don’t worry” about living your life according to a plan. We do it so much that we’re very often unaware of it. It’s when we go off-plan and we’re told not to worry that we get in trouble. There are some other advantages to worry, not the least of which is that people learn that you are someone to be trusted. As one who did a few years of event planning, I always looked at the job as one where I could take away the worry of those who would be participating…the ones who would be made to look foolish if I hadn’t done my job. Let me give you a small example. If I failed to place a copy of the script for how things should proceed on the lectern, how would the presiding officer know who to call on next in the event that he or she forgot to bring their own copy? If I failed to give proper instructions to the graduating seniors and to the faculty with whom they would be working, how could the event possibly occur? I always assumed that the president of the institution would be so busy greeting honored guests and family members that he would forget his speech. Stupid? Yeah, probably, but talk about having egg on your face if you reached into your jacket and found nothing…yikes! The speech was on his chair before he sat down. If he already had the speech, it was a bit of extra padding for the chair; if not, his ass was saved.
The point of all of this is not to believe those people who say, “Aw, don’t worry about it.” My advice? Go ahead, worry about it. Just be certain that what you worry over is something within your control. If it is, worry until it – whatever-the-hell-‘it’- happens-to-be – is finally done. Much of the time you’ll probably look back and ask yourself, “Why the hell did I worry about that?” Hmm, what if you hadn’t?