Looking out the window this morning I see storm clouds gathering and the trees swaying back and forth. The flag on the flagpole at the entrance to my hometown of Efrat is whipping loudly in the wind. Clearly the storm is coming, just as promised by the weatherman. Or is it? Perhaps it is merely media hype, and the traumatic reminders of last year’s storm that caught us all unaware, dumping 75 cm of snow and closing the roads for days.
I wonder to myself as I look out at the weather whether it is better to know, or not to know. If I had avoided listening to weather reports and put my ostrich head in the proverbial sand, I would have looked out this morning and said to myself, “Looks pretty cold out there. Better take a coat and gloves.” I would then have gone about my day, in a rather ordinary fashion, focusing on the business at hand.
As it is, I convince my elderly parents to set off to the warmer climes of Maaleh Adumim. I fill up an already full refrigerator, making sure there is milk (surely we will want to drink hot chocolate with marshmallows as we watch the snowflakes from the bay window), and enough food to feed a small army for the next month. Most of all, my mind is occupied with thoughts of the impending storm. When will the snow start? Will it stick? How high will it be? Will it turn to ice? Will the roads close? There is barely room for anything else in my overtaxed mind.
Is this worry helpful? I wonder. It reminds me of a debate I had with myself three years ago (and wrote about in my recent book) as I was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer treatment.. I faced the dilemma of how much to investigate the internet to find out about my disease, mortality statistics, treatment options and more. Trying to decide whether this would be helpful to me or not, I surprised myself by choosing to avoid any information on breast cancer, except for what my doctors told me. That meant no internet searches, no forums, no support groups, and no books about breast cancer. I found that reducing the information highway reduced my anxiety considerably. In contemplating what would be helpful in my fight against this disease, I decided that reading about the disease and the mortality statistics, would be detrimental to my mental health and my capacity for healing. This surprised me because if you would have asked me before cancer, I would have told you that I was a person who likes to be in the know.
The big storm is still ahead of us. What will happen? Who knows? Meanwhile, I am consciously choosing to be present, enjoying a steaming cup of java at the cosy coffee shop, watching the people on the (still dry) streets, bent into the wind hurrying about their business. What will be will be, with or without my worry, and if I spend too much time worrying about the future, I will most certainly have missed the present.