Worst Possible Scenario
As a very young, very new student nurse one of my biggest fears was walking into a patient’s room and finding them dead – well almost dead – needing CPR. I had passed the CPR test but never had occasion to use it on a real person. So, every night before I went to sleep I would go through “the worst possible scenario” and step by step go through entering the patient’s room, seeing them unresponsive, checking for a pulse, finding none, calling for help, getting a back board under the patient, and starting CPR all by myself, compressions, breathing, compressions, breathing, until finally someone would arrive to assist. Over and over I did this. Until one day I walked into a patient’s room with my instructor and found the patient lifeless. Guess what happened? We called a “Code Blue”, put the backboard under the patient and started CPR. No hesitation, no panic, I just did what I was supposed to do. Was it my “worse case scenario” ? No, my instructor was with me but none the less it happened. I had to do CPR. First time. The patient actually survived.
That’s when I realized I’d been doing this a very long time., since I was a kid, actually. Not CPR, but the Worst Possible Scenario thing. You see, I’m a closet worrier. I think about the “what if’s”.
What if I go somewhere and I don’t know anyone there and ………
What if I get called on in class and don’t know the answer………..
What if I lose my job…………
What if I am walking alone to my car at night and……………………
What if my mom and the new baby………………
What if I’m on an airplane and ……………….(yes, I really HATE flying)
And I’d go over possible solutions and outcomes.
I know – It sounds crazy BUT what I’ve found out is most often the “Worst Possible Scenario never happens. Not that there aren’t unexpected situations that arise or bad spots I’ve found myself in but that the worst possible thing that can happen has rarely happened. Partly because I’ve been blessed with a pretty good life but I also think it’s because anything less than the “Worst Possible Scenario” seems like a piece of cake in comparison. Knowing that whatever is happening is not the worst that could happen takes the pressure off and let’s you deal with what is really going on. It’s a trick I’ve passed on to my children (now adults) and my much younger siblings. So far we’ve all survived relatively unscathed.
Several years ago while on vacation in Italy with a group of friends I we had an opportunity to take part in a festival parade in the small town below the castle where we were staying, outside of town. The castle had been a monastary several hundred years before. Every year the town’s people had a Festival of the Virgin Mary. This included a parade with the statue of the Virgin Mary up the winding road to the castle where a special Mass was held. One young woman, a friend of my daughter, wanted to participate in the parade. No one else seemed to be interested but she, a very devout Catholic, really wanted to do this but didn’t want to go alone. I said I would join her. It turns out that while she really wanted to do this, once we had been dropped off in the small town among 75 strangers, all speaking Italian, she was a nervous wreck ! She was so worried she starting having an anxiety attack. What if they didn’t want us there? What if they felt like we were intruding? What if………….I finally asked her what was the worst possible thing that could happen? She didn’t have an answer. She didn’t know. She wanted me to tell her what I thought was the worst thing that could happen. I told her the townspeople could all turn on us, start throwing rocks at us and chasing us out of town in which case we would run really fast back to the castle and warn the others……….Yes, I know, a silly scenario, but if you’ve ever read Shirley Jackson’s story, The Lottery, stoning wasn’t totally outside the realm of possibilities and it did rank up there with “worst possible”. Of course that never happened. ( I suppose they could have ignored us or asked us to leave at which point we would have simply walked back to the castle alone….. )I approached a woman in the group of villagers and asked in my very poor Italian if we could join them. They were delighted to have “guests” join their parade and made us feel very welcome. It was one of the highlights of our trip. What the “worst possible scenario” did was let Julie see how ridiculous and improbable what I suggested was and let us take a step back and figure out what we needed to do.
Have I ever had one of my “Worst Possible Scenarios” happen? Once or twice and I lived through it. I came out on the other side a little battle scarred but stronger and wiser. To me, the closet worrier, and I know there are others of you out there, it’s like living the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared”. Even if it’s just mentally walking through how to handle the toughest thing you can imagine in a given situation, it gives you the edge you need to make it through.
Think about it.