I was speaking recently with a good friend. We've known each other since neither of us had two pennies to rub together. Nowadays, he's got a high stress job and a level of power most of us can only imagine. And although he’s not what you’d consider famous, there are moments when he finds himself in the public eye.
We were talking the other day — the usual stuff about kids and life — when the subject of worry came up. It seems like the word “worry” slips in and out of daily conversation for almost all of us, an invisible ghost haunting our pursuit of happiness. I’m awake-up-at-3-a.m.-and-stare-at-the-ceiling worrier — and have been ever since I was a kid. Though I’ve developed some very pedestrian coping mechanisms over the years to calm the lizard brain and ease myself back into slumber, there are still times, even in the midst of one of those rare periods of life without any stress whatsoever, when I simply toss and turn for no reason other than old habits.
So how, I wanted to know from my old friend, does a man who literally manages billions of dollars in assets each day sleep well at night?
He’s a spiritual guy, so I thought he’d come back with something Biblical. Maybe a line or two about prayer, or even a verse full of vengeance like that line in the 23rd Psalm about God hosting a banquet in your honor while your enemies look on. Or that line from Avenue Q about “only for now.” Or maybe even something like “this too shall pass.” Something pat. Something simple.
Instead, his profound musing went something like this: “Chill the f*** out.”
I add the asterisks because I coach a high school distance running program and I don’t want to offend the easily offended. But I am conversant in that particular word. Even my Irish-Catholic mother, who is slipping, as they say, has recently shown herself to be conversant in that particular word. It is what it is.
So I was not taken aback when my friend repeated the advice two or three more times to make sure I received the full impact of his message The f-bombs just rolled off his tongue, gaining greater urgency each time he spit it out.
And you know, it makes sense. In a world where there are great fears but most actual crisis is imagined, it’s easy to get carried away worrying about things that haven’t happened yet.
Here’s the thing: once I started saying it to myself (it’s only been a week, so the training wheels are still in place), a lot of my lesser fears slipped away. There is nothing more present and powerful than a 3 a.m. worry — and nothing more false in the light of day.