Nothing to fear in the present
By Debby de Carlo
A friend once said that when he died, he wanted his gravestone inscribed “95 percent of the things I worried about never happened.”
Over time, my friend learned to spend less time worrying. I’ve learned the same thing. It takes practice. The key, as so many books point out, is staying in the present moment. When I start to worry, invariably, I’m spiraling into the future, and as I do, fear spirals too. Feeling fear is a signal for me to come back to the present moment. In the present moment, I’m not alone. I’m connected to the world. Usually, all is well in the present. If there are problems, the answers are found in the present, too.
I have a mundane but interesting example. It was 1999 and I was a month away from moving to the Pacific Northwest. I was returning home to Madison after visiting friends in Iowa when the engine in my car stopped as I drove east on the highway. I coasted to the shoulder and got out of the car with my 75-pound golden retriever, Ernie. It was 95 degrees. I thought to myself, all is well. We’re fine. I’m not alone.
At that moment, a woman in a mini van pulled up and said she’d give me a lift to the next exit. (This was before I owned a cell phone.) I pointed to my dog. “That’s fine, hop in,” she said. We did. The next exit was just a few miles down the highway. I realized it was the hometown of my best friend from Madison, and I knew she and her husband were there in Iowa that weekend, visiting her mother.
The good samaritan dropped me off at a gas station. I described where my car was and one of the gas station attendants drove off to check my car. Meanwhile, I remembered Nancy’s maiden name and called her mother’s house. Nancy answered. If my car was not drivable, she and Jay would be happy to give Ernie and me a ride home.
The mechanic arrived back at the station. “I think it’s your timing belt,” he said.
“That can’t be,” I said. “I just had it replaced a few days ago.”
“Well, take it back to where you had the work done,” he replied.
“How am I going to do that?” I asked. “I live in Madison, 100 miles from here.”
“Well, you’ve got triple A Plus," he explained. "It covers 100 miles of towing.”
Nancy and Jay picked Ernie and me up and we headed to Madison. The next day, my car was delivered to my mechanic who fixed it. (It turned out to be a defect in the starter motor that Ford later described, but we didn’t know it at the time.)
I’m convinced that fear keeps us from seeing solutions that are always available to us, solutions that we can see when we stay in the present. The fear causes us to lose perspective. One of the great things about prayer and meditation is that they quiet the mind, bringing us to the present.
Try experimenting. I’m not advocating getting into the car of a stranger, by any means. But the next time you feel anxiety, remind yourself that you are in the present, and that in the moment, you’re connected to the world. Notice what happens. And if you’re like me, keep practicing.