Overcoming anxiety, wrestling with fear and having fun in Amsterdam

“Should I pack a raincoat?” Maybe we should get to the airport earlier. Where’s my passport? What if we can’t get a cab; what if we get stuck in traffic; what if, what if…”

I’m beginning to think that becoming eligible for Social Security also makes us susceptible to social insecurity. When I was younger I literally traveled all over the world with a toothbrush in my pocket and anticipation that exciting adventure waited wherever I landed. Now I worry so much about missing my plane I’m in danger of missing the new experience that is right before my eyes.

Thankfully I’m still able to detach from my preoccupation with culling up every possible negative outcome my mind can conjure. I’ve learned to accept worry as a natural part of being human. It actually can be helpful. It makes sure we leave enough time to get to the airport so we don’t miss the plane. The danger lies in allowing worry to become chronic; allowing ordinary, everyday events to become blown up into life or death situations.

I have a governor that monitors my obsessive worrying. Just before I go completely off the roof I recall this delicious, tongue-in-cheek nugget penned by Mark Twain more than a hundred years ago, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

Immediately, I feel better. I detach. I observe how foolish my worries are, and my sense of dread is replaced with a sense of anticipation. Wow, I’m going to Amsterdam. Seeing the city from a canal boat; gazing in awe at the astonishing Rijksmuseum; wiping a tear after visiting the Ann Frank House; sipping Heineken on tap; living every minute all out; having a wonderful time; breaking out into a full-throated laugh when Arlene asks, “Are we lost?” and I answer, “no honey, we’re not lost, we just don’t know where we are.”

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