Most of my childhood was spent playing with my two brothers in the beautiful woods behind our house. We created elaborate imaginary worlds out there (think Bridge to Terabithia, only with less tragic endings). We had our own system of currency (usually rocks), our own medical practices (dirt and leaves, mostly), even our own sports (“mudboarding,” which involved gliding down the hills in our sneakers and only worked right after it rained).
Our many hours in the woods also gave us this sense of survival – we had to take care of ourselves in the dangerous backcountry of our suburban home. (In reality, our parents could almost always see us through the living room window.)
Obviously, if we were going to survive in the deep wilderness, we needed survival books. Our favorite was The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook. You never knew when you’d need to escape the death-grip of quicksand. The first step, by the way, is to not panic which means I probably wouldn’t have made it to the second step.
I always thought quicksand would turn out to be a bigger problem in my life than it has been. I've actually never even seen quicksand, much less been stuck in it. Yet, the fear was there. I would often imagine what a horrible death that would be. I would imagine the feeling of utter loneliness as I sunk into the darkness. Morbid, I know.
I’m not afraid of quicksand anymore. I’ve outgrown that.
I have adult fears now – about relationships, finances, and health. I spin my own worst-case scenarios. I catastrophize. I let my imagination run wild.
Nothing feeds my fear like my imagination.
Throughout my life, most of what I feared would happen never did. Life hasn’t been perfect, by any means, but it also hasn’t been as tragic as I thought it would be.
Yes, there is real tragedy and real pain and real worst-case scenarios.
But, let's deal with those as they come and resolve to no longer waste ourselves on destructive fantasies.