Worry Is a Misuse of Imagination
Put your mind to better use.
The other day, I published a big black-pilled rant about how futile things seem to be. Well, mere hours after publishing that post, an F-22 shot down the Chinese spy balloon. I’m still ticked about the egg thing, but we’re going to crack it.
Part of what I didn’t discuss was that I was deeply afraid I had screwed up my family’s health care for the year. My employer offers what’s an ICHRA as an alternative to employee health insurance.
Basically, they pay me a lump sum every month that I can only use for healthcare, and we buy our own insurance from the marketplace. It’s a good deal for everyone involved: employees get more money for healthcare while employers actually save money because they’re not dealing with the overhead of insurance. It’s one of the better things to come out of the Trump administration.
I hadn’t been able to make any ICHRA claims this year, and I had just assumed it was because I had to wait until the end of the month, because you make claims on 2022 expenses until January 31. Then February 3rd rolled around and… I still couldn’t make claims.
I asked about it on Friday and on late Friday afternoon I learned that I was supposed to have signed up for it for 2023. I had signed up in late November when I was hired but I didn’t realize I was supposed to turn around and do it again.
Have I ever told you how much I hate the American healthcare system1?
So because it was late Friday, there wasn’t anyone around to ask about fixing it, so I had to rely on my imagination. I deeply feared that it was like Obamacare and if I was outside the enrollment period, tough cookies.
So I sank into a deep funk. And when that happens, every other bit of bad news just makes it snowball.
A “come to Jesus” moment
Times like this, it pays to have religion. I prayed for a good resolution to the problem, and also for inner peace. I didn’t know about the first, but the second was answered immediately, for which I was very thankful.
It was late and I couldn’t sleep, so I spent some time meditating on the crucifixion, which helped put things in perspective. Here I was mourning like Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, but I wasn’t expecting anything remotely as bad as what happened to Our Lord. No one was going to whip me, shove thorns in my scalp, make me carry a tree, or nail me to it and leaving me to hang from it as I die a cruel, agonizing death.
It made me realize how much of a baby I was being.
Well… that was easy
The rest of the weekend was much brighter, but I still had that worry in the back of my head, and the general exhaustion that comes from so much worry. I dreaded whatever ugliness might transpire on Monday morning.
Monday morning rolls around. Our HR lady messages me and gets it all fixed in less than five minutes. (HR gets a bad rap, but she’s really good at her job.)
I nearly wasted an entire weekend for what was—at most—an extremely mild inconvenience.
How often do we twist ourselves into knots over needless worry? Sometimes our imaginations greatly exaggerate the danger, like I did this past weekend. Or often we worry about things that never come to pass.
But in the end, the worry almost always ends up being far worse than the actual thing. We fool ourselves with worry. We think that by fretting about the problem we’re somehow going to gain control of it, but the truth is that it instead gains control over us.
Remember a year ago and how we all thought we were on the verge of getting nuked? Those were reasonable fears, but at the same time, no one’s been nuked yet. Maybe it’ll happen someday, but sitting around and worrying about it isn’t going to make it any less likely. That’s why I encouraged some fairly easy and low-cost means to alleviate your anxiety, but stopped short of recommending digging a bunker in your backyard.
Going back to Jesus, He has some good advice on this:
“Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” —Matthew 6:34 KJV
I once saw a billboard in Nashville that was pithier albeit less elegant:
WORRY IS A MISUSE OF IMAGINATION
So many things you could imagine and dream of—castles, fairies, space travel, unicorns… why are you sitting around imagining bad outcomes?
Dealing with despair
I’ve found the single biggest answer to worry is action. For instance, it’s tax time, my taxes are a nightmare, and I dread doing all the work leading up to meeting my accountant. But once I start chipping away at the paperwork, my anxiety starts to ease (slightly).
But many times, you’re stuck waiting and can’t take any action. During those times, your concern is a complete waste of energy that you could direct toward something else.
When you get into these states of near-despair—and we all do—I have found three things that help:
Pray for a solution to the problem, for an increase in faith, and for hope and inner peace
Meditate on sufferings much greater than your own
Express gratitude for all that you have, and once you start counting your blessings, you probably realize that you have so much you take for granted.
But it is crucial to snap out of despair because if you’re in a state of despair, you cannot take effective action to improve your situation. Anyone who’s ever been in a life-or-death situation will tell you that a positive mental attitude is what will make or break you.