When Joe – my very manly husband – rode his bicycle miles across the country for 4200 miles (and 72 days) he was part of a group of men and women who had undertaken this feat to, well, to, hmmm – why would anyone ride 4200 miles across country? Ah, I remember now – just to say that they did it.
And what a marvelous, exciting and life-altering achievement it was; riding over the Rockies, pedaling away through fierce winds, heavy rain, freezing cold and/or burning hot days, trying to outride the packs of vicious, wild dogs chasing them in Kentucky and staying out of the way of the coal trucks barreling down behind them in – also Kentucky. Then, after a hard day of riding, they arrived at either a town green, welcoming church basement or RV park, pitched their tents and cooked their meals over an open fire. Not at all what I consider fun. But, boy what an amazing adventure.
Each evening their guide would review the next day’s course, carefully going over the map and explaining what might be awaiting them along the way. Most of the riders look forward to the day(s) ahead – the excitement of new experiences lifting their spirits.
But several of the others became fixated on the difficulties that might be awaiting them. That was the unknown and sometimes nerve-wracking part. Would they be bombarded by hailstones? Or would bears spring out of the woods on a search for a juicy meal of bicycle rider? Or might the mountains be so tall, steep and rough as to be unattainable?
And in their gloom and doom imaginings these cyclists began to suffer great anxiety before the next day’s ride even began.
This is what one member of the group dubbed “horrible-izing”; turning the unknown into a negative and painful experiences so that one suffers before there is even need to do so. And, thus, these riders were never able to look ahead to the new adventure of the next day with joyful anticipation – for they were suffering, in advance, from the imagined struggles that most likely would never even materialize. What a shame it is to agonize about the future without even knowing what that future might bring.
But so many of us do just that in our daily lives as we struggle to stay on an optimistic path; often expecting the worst of each new situation before it even presents itself to us. Some say that pessimism works in their favor, for, if the worst doesn’t happen, it becomes a pleasant surprise.
Yes, but, does that not mean that they’ve spent unnecessary time and energy mired in negative thoughts and emotions?
Me? I’d rather assume that things will turn out all right. If that doesn’t happen, well, then there’s plenty of time for fear, sorrow and negative emotions to take over my head and heart. But more often that not things do work out just fine and I’ve avoided the pain that “horrible-izing” always bring.
I’ve received this sage advice so often in my life: from my mother, friends, therapists and husband. I suspect you have as well. Yet it is the term “horrible-ize” that finally struck home for me. The next time you face an unforeseen future and your mind begins to dredge up negative thoughts, I hope you hang on to our cyclist friend’s term and allow it to ease your mind. As it does mine.
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