I was an anxious little kid. In my anxious moments my mother used the most amazing phrase: “What’s the worst that could happen?” I think it may have been her way of trying to talk some sense into me at the time, and it wasn’t until I became an adult that I realized the power of that question. It seems to be my mantra these days. Asking myself this question really helps to calm me down when there’s crazy shit going on in my head. It also helps me to see the bigger picture when I’m faced with a stressful situation or there is an important decision to be made. I’m constantly wondering “what’s the worst that could happen?”
Our hot water heater busted the day before a crippling blizzard hit our area in January. We walked into the flooded basement at 6:00 AM and freaked out. OMG our stuff is ruined. OMG if we don’t get this fixed today we are going to be screwed when this blizzard hits. OMG how are we going to get this water up? OMG OMG OMG SHIT SHIT SHIT! And then. I breathed. And I asked myself “What is the absolute worst thing that could happen because of this?” Well, we’d be snowed in for days with no hot water.
Then I thought “If I were stuck in my house for a few days with no hot water what is the worst that could happen?” My heat is not dependent on my hot water heater. So we would have heat. That’s good. I would have to take cold showers or skip them all together. Which admittedly would suck, and possibly stink, but would be manageable. Uuuuuuh, what other bad things would come from not having hot water? I couldn’t think of a one. So, to answer my own question, it would be really annoying to be snowed-in with no hot water.
After taking this step back and realizing that the worst case scenario was manageable, I was able to calm myself down and focus on getting done what needed to be done. I called a plumber and left a message. While we waited for him to call back we got out the shop vac and started sucking up the water. We communicated back and forth with the plumber for a while, determining the best course of action. By the time he arrived to put in our new on-demand water heater at around 11:00 AM, all of the water was up, fans were placed for drying the wet floors, and every box that had been saturated with water was inspected. We lost nothing important and were forced to get rid of a few things we’d been holding on to for no good reason. WHAT A BONUS!
I could have wrapped myself up in the stress of getting this done before the blizzard hit, and I would have been miserable. But I realized that if we didn’t get it fixed before the storm we’d be okay. I reminded myself that regardless of what I thought was the end of the world for a few brief moments, in fact, was not. And then we tackled it head on. We got shit done. And I ended up having an enjoyable, unplanned day off organizing my basement.
I find this question to be so powerful because it allows me to play out the worst case scenario and then decide how I would react to it. Often times I find that the worst case scenario really isn’t that bad. I generally come to the conclusion that I’ve been through worse, so I know I can handle what’s in front of me.
I have three “no-go” scenarios. Three answers to my question that would warrant a freak-out:
1. Someone is seriously injured (emotionally or physically) or dies (duh).
2. I lose my home or cause serious damage to it (not actually the end of the world, but still).
3. My credit score is ruined (I’ve been working sooooooo hard to improve it, and I’m finally, FINALLY making serious headway. I’m just not willing to screw it up.)
Asking myself this question also helps me when I’m busy worrying or over-analyzing, as I tend to do. As long as the issue I’m worrying about could not result in one of the three consequences above, I can generally calm myself down.
For instance: someone said something to me in a tone of voice that led me to believe they are upset with me. I’ll worry it to death if I let myself. But really, what if they are upset with me? What’s the worst that will happen? I’ll probably talk to them about it and work it out. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe they’ll get over it. Or they won’t. But I won’t die and neither will they, so we’re all good.
I understand I make things sound incredibly simple when most of the time there are about a bazillion factors that could come into play for any one decision. But this really works for me. It keeps me from being afraid. It keeps me taking risks. It allows me to publish blog posts about my Fallopian tubes and my open relationship.
This method of decision-making may make me more impulsive than is advisable, at times. Quite frankly, I’m sure that Tyler’s more methodical and thoughtful approach has saved me from some crappy situations over the years. But even if I didn’t have him by my side, I’d still be fine. I’d still be here, and I’d still be happy. Because really, what’s the worst that could happen?