Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fears Dismissed as Groundless

Jerome K. Jerome's hilarious 1889 novel Three Men in a Boat prefaces each chapter, in the style of the period, with a brief preview of its contents, in this case, the next installment of the adventures of three young Englishmen, and their dog Montmorency, who head off on a boating holiday with various comic disasters along the way.  Chapter 2 opens with this list:

Plans discussed -  Pleasures of 'camping out' on fine nights - Ditto, wet nights - Compromise decided on - Montmorency, first impressions of - Fears that he is too good for this world, fears subsequently dismissed as groundless

In the chapter that follows, the narrator, J, tells us that if we were to look upon Montmorency we would "imagine that he was an angel sent upon the earth . . . in the shape of a small fox-terrier."  J tells us that he feared such an angelic being would not stop long in this world, but "when I had paid for about a dozen chickens that he had killed; and had dragged him growling and kicking, by the scruff of his neck, out of a hundred and fourteen street fights . .. then I began to think that maybe they'd let him remain on earth for a bit longer, after all."

This is my long-winded way of reminding us all, once again, how many of our fears can be dismissed as groundless.

In the past two days I've had two occasions to reflect on this fact. 1) I got the first bid for repairs on my town home.  It was definitely a lot of money - $11,000 - but vastly less than the "tens of thousands of dollars" friends had predicted: barely even ONE ten, let alone plural tens.  2) I went with a family member for a court date involving a vehicle driven without proof of insurance or up-to-date tags, with a four-point ticket and $500 fine threatened. I expected to spend the whole morning there and to have a tell a long, convoluted (but true) story as we threw ourselves upon the mercy of the court. Instead, we were done in ten minutes, once we produced proof that the car had indeed been insured at the time and the registration had been subsequently renewed.  All we had to pay was a $35 fine for the lapsed tags. Groundless fears in both cases!

I guess one good thing about groundless fears is the enormous relief one experiences when things turn out to be so much better than dreaded.  I would never have found $11,000 a cheering tab for home repairs if I hadn't had dire visions of $35,000.  But in the end, I don't think it's worth it to spend weeks wailing in darkness just to produce that one glad, glorious moment when the clouds are finally dispelled.

Mark Twain is frequently quoted as having said, "I have spent most of my life worrying about things that never happened."  Right now I'm planing on NOT spending any more of my life this way in the coming year.

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