Alfred E. Newman, the boy with elephant ears and a gap-toothed grin, was the face of the iconic Mad Magazine. His famous “What, me worry?” motto was the foundation for a perpetual ear-to-ear smile that graced the covers for decades. His thinking was light years ahead of his time. Pop quiz: Have you ever smiled in the midst of a worry session?
On the Camino de Santiago, I was able to suspend worry and found that things seemed to work out for the best is a very serendipitous manner. I quickly discovered that by purging huge chunks of worry from my head, it made space to enjoy the moment and accept things as they were. Worry is nothing more than a poisonous thought about an event in the future that may or may not occur. Can you name your five biggest worries from ten year ago? If yes, did any of them come to fruition?
There is a Grand Canyon between practical planning and obsessive worry. On the trail, I had a rain jacket, a waterproof backpack cover, and a Tilley hat to keep moisture off my shiny bald head. Past that, what is the purpose of worrying if it will or will not rain?
Chronic worrying is detrimental to happiness. It is impossible to be happy and to worry at the same time. It is like trying to breathe underwater. A friend sent me a simple poem about worry from an unknown author that sums up my newfound attitude:
For every problem under the sun
There is a solution or there is none
If there’s a solution go and find it
It there isn’t never mind it
For many years, people had extolled the virtues of deleting worry from my life. This was easy to say, but difficult to implement. During my million steps of reflection on the Camino, I spent some quality time focusing on the significant portion of my life that had been completely wasted on worrying about things outside of my control. The only thing we ultimately control is our reaction to events in our lives. I am spending much more time aligning myself with what is happening as opposed to trying to control what will or will not occur.
My resolution for 2014 is to keep smiling like my pal Alfred.