In these times, anxiety dogs me at almost every turn. When I feel that way it helps to be prepared for some of the possibilities that tempt me to overthink danger. Being ready for sudden difficulty with “just in case” knowledge and skills.
I know I’m not alone—after its initial publication in 1999, The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook has grown into a series of over a dozen titles. Perhaps because the handbooks are tinged with just a bit of whimsy, the series apparently touches a nerve—the original guide sold over 10 million copies. The books’ statistically unlikely events peek from behind “unexpected” just enough to remind us that hazards are not ever far away.
The books also provide some assurance that, when confronted with startling scenarios, we still have the power to rescue ourselves and others. In a way, the books promote a factual basis for hope, and thus “a little knowledge” can be an reassuring thing.
I think there’s an important lesson nested inside the basic premise of these handbooks. Something that might be helpful for anyone like me, whose anxiety is easily triggered. That something is this: Collecting together in my mind a few “just-in-case” facts to remind me that I’m not always powerless in the face of adversity. (Hear me carefully: There’s no way I could ever assemble enough of these facts to completely cover all the unlikely dangers that lurk out there.) Tucked away inside my storehouse of arcane knowledge are these few examples:
If I had a dog who decided to tangle with a grumpy porcupine that’s generous with its quills, I would remove them easily by cutting off the ends of the quills with a scissors. This releases the air pressure that maintains the position of a quill’s barb, making quill removal (by pliers) a bit easier.
If I’m feeling as grumpy as a porcupine, I know one way to change my mood: Smile whether I feel like it or not. And if that seems difficult, I know that I can simply clench a pencil or pen in my front teeth for a few minutes. This engages my zygomatic muscles in a pose that simulates smiling, and therefore offers all the psychological benefits of a smile.
A small detail, but sometimes very useful: I always carry at least one BandAid™ in my wallet.
When I’m out for a meal with others, I carry with me at least one Tide ToGo® Instant Stain Remover Stick for the likely possibility that one or more of us will spill something on ourselves.
To be ready for those times when I might find myself in a position to witness to my faith, I sometimes spend quiet time thinking about what I might ask or say. What words I would use, what directions I would take the conversation and what (silent) prayers I would offer when presented with this opportunity.
As I continue my life journey, I’m finding more places where unexpected events turn up. I’m certain that some of my ability to deal with unanticipated occurrences and sudden encounters comes from years of accumulating the kind of knowledge I’ve listed here.
Decades ago, I may have thought that some of this preparedness bordered on the absurd. But the longer I live, the more often I realize that “just in case” knowledge and skills might help me be a helpful, comforting and non-anxious person.
“Worst-case scenarios” or not….