I took my daughter to the doctor today, after five days of intermittent fevers and sickness, convinced the outcome would be dire.
The clock struck 6pm on a week night last week, and I was convinced I was going to get a phone call or a knock on the door from a police officer to give me tragic news about my wife.
I was out of town this past weekend, away from my kids, and every time my phone buzzed I was convinced it was an emergency involving one of them.
Every time my phone rings and it’s my mom or dad, I’m convinced that they’re calling to give me horrible news about the other one.
I call this daily madness waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But I don’t actually think it’s madness. If I had to guess, this level of irrationality is more common than I realize. I think it’s a part of the human condition – the struggles and realities that are unique to being human.
When you’ve had something tragic happen out of the blue before, your mind does a really good job at trying to protect itself from having to go through that shock again. And so it makes you think every knock, phone call, or doctor’s visit is simply the next shoe to drop. It’s kind of brilliant if you think about it – your brain had the rug pulled out from it once, so it’s doing what it can to avoid it the next time around.
While it may be a good defense mechanism, it also makes those of us living that reality feel a bit crazy at times. Not a day goes by that I don’t think something along the lines of “If you only knew the horrible scenarios I make up in my head…”
Maybe this is why the Stoics were so adamant about practicing negative visualization, or what they called premeditation of evils. The Stoics would visualize the worst case scenario on a daily basis. This practice was intended to prepare the person mentally for how they would work through such situations. It would help alleviate some of the fear of the worst case scenario by allowing the person to work through it in their head, without ever having it happen.
I can’t say I intentionally practice negative visualization like I do other Stoic practices, but I can’t help but notice my mind does this for me already. In some weird way, my mind understands the need for this negative visualization practice better than I can comprehend it.
I don’t have any words of wisdom for you if you’re someone who is also constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But if nothing else, know that you’re not alone in it. There’s likely countless people within your own circle who struggle with something similar. I’m not sure how you wouldn’t when you’ve experienced one shoe dropping already.
And part of me wants to encourage you (and myself) to actually appreciate these moments. Because if nothing else, they’re reminders of what we’ve been through.
Maybe waiting for the other shoe to drop is simply the recognition that one shoe has dropped already…but we’re still standing.