The waste of time and energy that is “worry”

I’m currently reading The Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle, and as I read the section on “now” that begins at page 47, I was reminded of how I recently wasted my own time and energy.

Attending a wedding

One of nieces was married about a week ago, and about two months before that I decided that I would attend her wedding. That may not sound like a huge decision, but “attending it” meant that I would drive or fly 1,000 miles to get there (so attending meant I would “lose” a few days in travel, and spend a fair amount of money).

Shortly after making the decision to attend the wedding my fear of dancing came up. I have never been much of a dancer, though one night in Alabama I did have several hours of training, and came to enjoy slow dancing (or at least dancing to “southern rock” while holding a woman close).

Long aside about my dance training: One night when I first moved to Alabama to work on a NASA project, I went to a local restaurant, sat at the bar, and ordered some nachos to go. I ordered a beer while I waited. By the time the nachos were delivered I had already been chatted up by two local couples who were interested in who I was. I was wearing a suit and tie — which was very much out of place in this area —so I guess they wanted to know more about me.

During the conversation I kept referring to the music that was playing as “country and western,” and one of the woman kept correcting me and telling me it was called “southern rock.” As some part of this conversation they ended up inviting me to go dancing with them so they could show me what southern rock was. I liked both couples, so I agreed to go with them. In the parking lot they said I would probably get lost on the way, so one of the couples offered to drive me to the place they were going to. (At this point I was worried that this is how people who are new to Alabama end up getting murdered in Alabama, but several people at the restaurant knew that these people were taking me, so I thought that at least everyone would know who murdered me.)

When we got to the dancing establishment — I don’t remember its name, but it was some sort of dance club that played southern rock — one of the women told me I better take my tie off. I asked why, and she said I would probably end up in a fight if I kept it on. As we walked into the dimly lit club and began looking for a table, a woman at another table grabbed my left leg. Hard. (Seriously.) I’m not sure what she wanted to do with me, but I had to pull my leg hard to get it back. I quickly took off my tie and put it in my jacket pocket.

Long story short, I ended up dancing with the two women for a few hours. They kept passing me back and forth, and I recall one woman telling the other, “He’s getting better.” I kept worrying about the husbands being jealous and killing me, but they laughed and told me to keep going. By the end of the night I was very comfortable dancing with the two women, though to my surprise, it felt much better to dance with one woman than the other. Not a big deal, but a surprise.

Fortunately the story does not end up with me being murdered, but with the couple driving me back to the original restaurant, where I got back in my car and drove back to the hotel where I was living.

Actually, the story doesn’t end quite there: I forgot about my nachos. I left them in back seat of the couples’ car, and didn’t think of them until some time the next day. I imagine the husband probably noticed them when he opened his car door in the morning. (We had all had a fair amount to drink, and I/we were probably all fortunate to make it home in one piece. (I know we all made it home in one piece because I ran into one of the woman a few weeks later.))

(I had forgotten all about it until writing this story, but I also learned how to salsa dance on a yoga trip to Mexico.)

The point of this long interlude is that I am capable of dance, if only a little bit.

Pre-wedding worry

Getting back to my niece’s wedding ... about once a week for the two months leading up to the wedding I would say to myself, “Al, you should go out and practice dancing a little like you did when you lived in Alabama. Otherwise you’ll be afraid to dance at the wedding.”

Once a week I would say that to myself, and then I’d say something like, “I’ll worry about that when the wedding gets closer.” Then I’d forget about it, but a week later the worry would come back again and I’d go through the same thought process all over again.

A week before the wedding I was with another niece, and I kept telling her, “You have to teach me how to dance. The wedding is only a week away!” She showed me how to dance, and even my mother tried to show me how to dance, but my total practice time amounted to about five or ten minutes.

Finally in the last days before the wedding, I knew I was hosed. I resolved that I just wouldn’t dance, unless maybe it involved me holding another woman close to me and dancing slowly.

The wedding

About two days before the wedding I asked a friend when the wedding and reception would be. She said the wedding would start at 5pm, and the reception would start after that, probably somewhere around 6pm. I also knew we were having a little dinner at the reception, and there would be the usual toasts, so I thought the dancing wouldn’t begin until at least 7pm.

At this point there are a few other things you need to know: I was driving two other people to the wedding; one person I was driving is about 78 years old, and he had a 40-minute drive just to get to me; and it would take about 90 minutes to drive one way to the wedding. I knew this meant we would leave early, but I didn’t know how early.

The grand finale

As it worked out, by the time the dinner was finished, the toasts were made, and the bride and groom danced with their parents, the other two people I was with were ready to go home. As all of the young people started to dance a line dance — which I could have easily done — I was walking across the dance floor to leave.

All of my worry had been for naught.