Earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes—nature has a way of making us feel small, of revealing our human folly and inadequacies. As natural disasters hit with alarming frequency (along with some man-made ones) my own internal alarm bells go off: How prepared am I should the “Big One” rock Seattle? I have put together my grab-and-go emergency kit, I have some freeze-dried food and water stored, I even have some emergency dog food. Mental preparation? That’s a different story.
I can’t imagine having to deal with losing everything. I can’t imagine having to camp out with no electricity or running water for weeks, or to have to go to a shelter, or worse— that I or my loved ones suffer injury or death. Since my birth in 1956, I’ve dodged a lot of bullets: no nuclear holocaust; no large-scale natural disaster; no debilitating disease; no early death of parents or, God forbid, my children. Has tragedy struck? Yes, you can’t get beyond middle-age without a few scars. Yet, on many accounts, my life has been relatively charmed.
Still, I worry.
I worry about my ability to cope with a sudden, out-of-my-control, turn of events. I worry about smaller stuff too, like the little indignities that come with an aging body, and if David and I will out-live our money. I worry about my worry. I decided I needed to tackle these unhealthy worries head on, so I found a clinic in Seattle that specializes in anxiety. I now have a therapist. And I’m learning a lot.
I’m learning that most of us underestimate our ability to cope—that we are resilient creatures. I’m learning how habitual patterns of anxious thoughts influence behaviors that don’t serve us and only increase anxiety. And I’ve learned that feeling uncomfortable is nothing more than just a feeling.
I’ve learned that I can change my thinking and unhelpful coping behaviors (which will take effort and practice), but I will never have control over most things—whether I worry about them or not.
Still, I recently purchased a couple of furniture anchor hooks and seismic cabinet catches—just in case.