Worry is a choice

Remember the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”?     When it was released I felt it was somewhat oversimplified and annoyingly repetitive.  (It would get stuck in your brain for days – in fact, you’re humming the melody right now aren’t you?)

Twenty four years later, I think it should be a mantra we all learn and attempt to live by.

The recent hubbub over the (failed) vote to support the U.N. Treaty on the Rights of People with Disabilities has revealed yet again how most of us allow our lives to be ruled by fear, anxiety and worry.   At least one person told me they were glad the Treaty was defeated because they’d “rather not have to worry” about it.

Which struck me, because worry, no matter how justified you think it may be, is a choice.  It is not something anyone is ever required to do.   And when the thing you are worrying about is as distant as a non-binding U.N. Treaty based on our own domestic legislation but meant only as a recommendation to countries whose disabled citizens enjoy no such protections as they do in this country?   It’s a stretch, to say the least.

If there was any further proof needed that we have become a nation of fearful worriers, this might be it.

As my Mom and I discussed today, avoiding the insidious pull of unnecessary worry is difficult, even for the most optimistic among us.  It is the reason I never watch the news or listen to the radio, but even if you just scan the yahoo homepage, thumb through the paper or listen to people talk now and then, some irrational worry will creep in.

So when is worry justified?   Well, while we were in Germany we watched Felix Baumgartner jump out of a hot air balloon at 120,000 feet & then free fall for nearly six minutes in an attempt to break the sound barrier with nothing more than his body before pulling his parachute and landing in the Arizona desert.   His parents were watching…and his mother looked worried.

I can’t say I blame her.

On a more realistic front, the things we worry about are usually NOT things that might statistically happen to us.  In this great article from Nancy Sathre-Vogel at Family on Bikes, she lists the top five things parents worry about.  They are:

  1. Kidnapping
  2. School snipers
  3. Terrorists
  4. Dangerous strangers
  5. Drugs

However, the five things most likely to cause injury to children are (and she links to the source from the NY Times):

  1. Car accidents
  2. Homicide (generally by someone they know)
  3. Child abuse
  4. Suicide
  5. Drowning

As she says, “notice how there is no overlap in those two lists?”

Someone got pushed onto the subway tracks in NYC last week and died.  Should I never allow my kids to ride the subway?  A professional hit took place on West 58th St. in broad daylight Monday.  Perhaps we should cross Columbus Circle off of our list of safe places to walk?    The U.N. mentioned the best interests of the child in Article 7 of a non-binding treaty on fair treatment for people with disabilities.   Are men in blue hats about to storm my house and take away my disabled child?   We had a hurricane here this fall that did a lot of damage.  Should we move to the desert?   Maybe not, because you never know when a rogue skydiver attempting to break the sound barrier might land on your head!

I could literally sit here all day and list things that could happen.  Meaning they are not an absolute impossibility.  Whether or not they are probable or likely to happen within the next millennia (or ever)  is a different thing altogether.

Want to go camping?  Bears, tics, lyme disease.

Name any activity.  Anything.  I could give you a reason to worry about it.   Cooking?  Knives, burns, food poisoning.

Baths?  Drowning.  Showers? Falls, unconsciousness, drowning.

Kind of addictive, isn’t it?

It is impossible to remove worry from our lives.  We are hardwired for it.  The best we can do is to try to remove any unnecessary worry, and when that fails, refuse to give in to the worry and lead our lives with as much optimism and faith in the good as we can possibly muster.

Don’t worry.  Be happy.

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