Hope for the best and prepare for the worst

My research suggests John Jay wrote “To hope for the best and prepare for the worst, is a trite but a good maxim,” in 1813. So I will credit him to this quote knowing I didn’t make it up myself.

It’s always been one that I stand by as my anxious brain plays out the worst-case scenario of every situation that crosses my path. Today at my son’s soccer practice someone brought a puppy who wiggled out of his leash. My first thought was this dog was going to run into the road and get hit by a car. The road is on the other side of the school and up a hill so it would have had to run a good distance. I know this, yet it’s still where my mind goes.

I’m an over-packer when it comes to going anywhere I’m weighed down. Add three children to the mix and I basically pack my entire kitchen. I carry four bottles of water when we hike in addition to snacks, extra clothes if it’s chilly, sunscreen, bug spray, I won’t bore you with the list but it’s long and heavy.

At night my mind fills with worries and hopes for the next day. It can keep me up and I’m unable to turn off the repetition. It seems once I’ve gone through all the scenarios I can think of (both glorious and tragic) I start to repeat the circumstances. Thoughts bore into brain making a nest so knotted I can’t undo them.

A night out turns into several wardrobe changes. I put on three different pants and six different tops and then change everything again when I realize my shoes don’t go with anything I have on. I stare at the colorful articles hanging in front of me and think, “I have nothing to wear,” which is bullshit. At times I think about what to wear days before the event to spare myself this agony yet often I do it anyway.

The stove is broken and a maintenance person needs to enter our house while I’m alone. It will most likely be a man. He will most likely be stronger than me. I will need to make small talk and pretend I want a stranger in my house. Inside I tell myself he won’t murder me, he’s probably a normal guy with a wife and kids. It’s going to be fine. To this day, it’s always been fine but I still worry.

So many worries and hopes to prepare for, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be that person who just wings it all the time. Someone who goes with the flow. Steady Eddie. I have been able to let go of a few things through therapy and exercising restraint. It gets easier to turn off my overthinking brain when I remind myself almost nothing good comes from trying to pinpoint everything.

I think I’m going to try to keep preparing but not just for the worst. I’m going to refocus myself to preparing for the next step.

I can leave the kid’s stuff in the car, I look FINE and can wear whatever I try on first, the maintenance person just wants to get the job done and then leave, the thoughts keeping me up at night can wait until the morning. Maybe. Just maybe.

Photo by me on a beach day that was supposed to be sunny and warm yet we had 30 mph winds and rain. The sand was blasting our ankles and the lifeguards looked miserable in Avalon, NJ.

Melisa Peterson Lewis is a blogger at Fingers To Sky with over two-hundred personal essays, book reviews, gardening, and details on her writing process as she works through her first sci-fi novel. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

9 thoughts on “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst

  1. Great article. You’re also describing low level anxiety or panic.

    Brains / minds aren’t supposed to work this way – you might have a low level glitch. The thing is, you don’t need to live with this – imagine a life where your mental processes are at peace.

    If you have a psych, you should talk to them about this.


    • I do have anxiety for sure. I’m not undiagnosed. Therapy has helped tremendously. I’ve the last two years I’ve climbed a steep mountain I never thought I’d see the top. The view is nice up here.


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