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Without the worry, life can be bliss

Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

Not that I’m a worrier or anything, but if I won $21 million in the lottery today, here’s what I’d do, roughly in order:

• Inquire anxiously about tax consequences.

• Become wracked with guilt over millions of Rwandans who deserved to win lottery more than I.

• Brood over possibility that friends will start loving me for my immense wealth instead of my sparkling personality.

• Agonize over whether to invest newfound pile in aggressive mutual fund or in passbook savings account.

• Darkly ponder a future in which children become rich, spoiled brats.

• Confront appalling possibility that grandchildren (who do not even exist) may someday be sent to private school.

• Fret indecisively over which disease, out of many worthy ones, to cure through my new foundation.

• Fantasize about buying fancy new sports car, but then reject idea as a “cliché.”

• Finally, allow myself to celebrate with one $33 bottle of French champagne, but then immediately feel extravagant for not using Club Card for extra savings.

So, as you can see, I worry too much.

Yet those days are over. This week I am starting a new experiment in which I am no longer worrying about anything. My guru and mentor as I pursue this quest is that great American philosopher, Bobby McFerrin, who once said, profoundly, “Don’t worry. Be happy.”

My old self believed this to be the lamest mantra since “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

But after trying it for about a week, I can testify to its power. Instead of wasting all of my energy worrying about the things that might go wrong, I find myself just blithely assuming that everything will work out fine.

So far, everything has worked out fine, although some would say one week is not a decisive test. Given enough weeks, let’s say 2,000, something unpleasant is bound to happen. To take the obvious example, during my last week on Earth the odds are strong that I’ll hit a rough patch.

Yet the question is: Should I ruin 1,999 of those weeks worrying about the 2,000th? Or should I just play dumb and deal with that week when it arrives?

All I can say is, playing dumb has made for a darn pleasant week. Norman Vincent Peale was on to something when he came up with his Power of Positive Thinking scheme. In fact, I have discovered that it works even during the severest challenge to positive thinking ever devised by man: the game of golf.

Yeah, I employed it during the Spokesman-Review sports department’s annual golf tournament, the Wet Dog Fur Open. Instead of standing over the ball, fretting about all of the bad places it might end up – into the water, into the trees, down John Blanchette’s shorts – I decided to step up to the ball with only one thought in mind: “Let’s see what happens, because it might be something good.”

Granted, what happened was often quite spectacularly bad. Yet instead of spending the whole day brooding over failure, I brooded over failure only for the actual three seconds it took for the ball to go into the water. Then I was back to, “Let’s see what happens next, because it might be something good.”

The most important lesson: Even though everything didn’t always turn out well, my worst fears were never realized. The ball never went down John Blanchette’s shorts.

It’s the same way with life. You can worry yourself sick over everything – your children, your spouse, your job, your parents, your health, your aphids – and it will amount to a lot of useless anxiety.

Or you can be a cockeyed optimist and choose to believe that things will generally turn out OK. Sometimes things won’t, but hardly ever will the ball, metaphorically speaking, go down John Blanchette’s shorts.

Meanwhile, I am entering Week Two of my new No-Worry regime. I’m happier, more cheerful and more productive.

I’ll tell you what worries me now. Things are going too well. That makes me nervous.

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