MAD magazine’s mascot used to a goofy-looking guy named Alfred E. Neuman whose motto was, “What, Me Worry?” As dumb as Mr. Neuman appeared to be, he was on to something there.
Almost everyone worries about something sometime, but to what purpose? Worrying is a huge waste of energy that does nothing to change a situation except to possibly cause illness and distress.
When I was on dialysis even when my weight dwindled to under 120 pounds and I knew I had mere months to live without a transplant, I didn’t worry. My thoughts were that I was bound to die one day of something, that I’m powerless to change that and I can’t control when it’s going to happen. So what good is worrying about it?
I could have spent every day fretting about how little time I had to live. What a waste of my remaining time that would have been. Rather than worrying about something I had no control over, I spent my time trying to squeeze as much enjoyment as possible out of each day.
During the seven years I was on dialysis — three times a week, for four to five hours a day, I would have two large needles inserted into my arm so that my blood could be removed, filtered and returned to my body — I noticed that each patient’s attitude had much to do with how they responded to the treatment.
There were patients like me who tried to make the best of a miserable situation by focusing on the fact that we were still alive, still able to spend time with friends and family, still able to enjoy at least a portion of our lives.
There were extraordinary patients who approached their treatment as though they were going to a party, lifting the spirits of most everyone around them.
There were those who accepted their fate and said or did little, receiving their dialysis in silence.
And then there were those who spent every moment worrying or complaining about something, anything. They worried before treatment started that the needles might hurt, that they might have cramps, that they would be so tired after treatment, that their health was going downhill, that they might not get a transplant before they died.
Everyone who has dialysis has such thoughts, with good cause. The needles DO hurt. Often patients do have horrendous cramps. At times your arm spurts blood after treatment is completed because the insertion site didn’t heal over completely. Treatment usually leave you exhausted. And you know what will happen if you don’t eventually get a kidney.
So these things are going to happen. If that’s all you focus on, your life is going to be pretty miserable. If you accept that things happen that are out of your control, and focus on dealing with what IS within your control — to wit, your attitude — you’ll find that what once was overwhelming can become almost commonplace.
Right now I’m dealing with a few incredibly difficult problems. Worrying about them doesn’t make them go away. It just makes it harder for me to deal with them, because my worry can paralyze my will to tackle my troubles.
Just like everything in life, it all comes down to attitude. A bad attitude can make an excellent life miserable; a good one can make a miserable life seem excellent.
If you are worried about something, don’t dwell on what might happen. Do what you can to change the things you can and realize all the worry in the world won’t effect those things you can’t.
As the cheesy song from the ‘80s advised, “Don’t worry, be happy”