It's not that I'm a pessimist. I'm an optimist who concluded long ago that to accurately assess a situation I needed to ask "what's the worst that could happen?" The assumption is that if I have evaluated the worst, I will be ready for anything.
I have discovered that this is flawed reasoning, because:
- It's impossible to prepare for anything, given that the combinations of unfortunate things that can happen are, I'm sorry to say, infinite. So, when something bad does happen, rather than being "ready" I sit there bleary eyed and wild-haired wondering how on Earth I did not see it coming.
- Operating in worst case scenario mode leads me to live in a perpetual state of heightened anxiety. (It's no wonder, since I inhabit a nightmarish kind of place). The lethally ironic blow? The exercise completely dulls my instincts, so that when something happens I cannot read my most trusty tool (my internal compass) because I've dulled it with a flood of possible scenarios that do not take place.
- Ultimately, what I end up without is faith. Because I'm so busy looking ahead at likely disasters that I fail to notice all of the times that what I was expecting did not occur.
So I'm now in the middle of the most difficult exercise: training every day to resist taking my well tread, completely cleared away path that leads to worst case scenarios; and instead choosing to open through dense jungle the trail that no one has ever set foot on of trying to conceive the best that could happen.
Saying this doesn't come naturally to me would be an understatement. It scares me, because it feels like I an setting myself up to be ambushed, hurt or disappointed. But instead of living through the heartbreak of all the catastrophes that have only happened in my (hyperactive) imagination, I hope to live through the joy of a thousand perfect (and equally plausible) outcomes.
This way, when crisis strikes, at least I won't be exhausted.
Photo: Painting by Ken Grant