Since my younger days, even before my youth, I have been a chronic worrier. I am a stickler for punctuality and like scenarios that are pre-planned and leave little to the unforeseen.
If I was running a little late to meetings, I was worried about being ticked off by my bosses and being impolite to the hosts. My editors always highlighted that a cardinal rule for journalists was that we “always waited for their news makers and should not make the news makers wait for them”.
When organising events for the family and friends, I always took pains to make sure that no stone was left unturned in the preparations, and would make numerous prior phone calls or recce trips to the venues to make sure that there was not the slightest possibility of any mistakes or miscommunications.
When I was younger, such preparations were little more than minor inconveniences to me. But as I grew older, this preoccupation with the perfectly arranged settings started to take a toll – often in the form of dyspepsia or stress-induced headaches that made it hard for me to enjoy the festivities I had so painstakingly organised.
At one instance, I was the master of ceremonies and chief planner for the birthday party of one of my closest friends. We had been friends since elementary school and I wanted everything to be perfect for his big day.
I took pains to make sure everything was great – from the ‘perfect’ venue, ‘perfect’ menu, ‘perfect’ activities and speech and on the list went. It was not long before I started feeling unwell and often had headaches when I went over the plans with my friend. He was concerned and advised me to relax.
“Don’t worry buddy. It will turn out all right in the end because you always do a great job. What is more important is the good time we will have on that day and our friendship is worth much more than all the planning, so do relax. It would be terrible if everyone enjoyed themselves on that day except you, and I would not like that too,” he told me.
That was a wake-up call that I sorely needed. Fast forward a couple of decades, and I can attest to the truth of my friend’s words. Looking back over the past years, I could be proud of my accomplishments that had been successful because of my planning and preparation.
But there were also numerous instances where events were thoroughly planned and still went wrong, as well as several times where events were poorly planned and still succeeded beyond expectations. I could smile at the successes and laugh at the mistakes and follies but I also considered how much fun I had missed because of my worrisome attitude.
So I would tell my younger self these four words:
“This too shall pass.”
Would we remember the follies and foibles weeks or even days later after the event? If friends had been offended, we often did not harbour the bad feelings for long and it was not long before we were friends again. In the light of the bigger picture, the faults of the past were learning points to master, chapters in the book of life that were meant to be written and I soon saw that their relative importance was often overrated.
Meanwhile, I had undergone trauma and misfortune that I never could have planned for, and survived and even thrived after it. I realise now that all these instances were and are still parts of the tapestry that my life is going to become when I meet my Maker. Too often, I had concentrated on the preparation and missed out on the fun and camaraderie.
But the preparation and worry were like the knots of the coloured threads that make up each part of the tapestry. The fun and camaraderie and memories were the tapestry itself and I was in danger of missing the forest because of the trees.
So now, whenever I am predisposed to worry myself silly over preparing for an event, I tell myself “This too shall pass” and sit back to enjoy the backdrop. Preparations are still important but I have since learnt to delegate, improvise and refine to ensure less work is done but with more clarity and sophistication so that a great product can be achieved with less effort.
This too shall pass. How I wish I had learnt those four words sooner.