Mark Twain was a sickly child, whose father died when he was 12, whose wife rejected his first marriage proposal, and who lost three out of his four children. He had money problems and he failed multiple times. He saw war and slavery and sickness and death. But he also achieved stupendous success as a writer and traveled to some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Part of the richness of his writing comes from the fact that he knew the full spectrum of human experience: he knew the worst kind of suffering alongside the greatest joys.
He wrote many of the best-remembered lines in American writing, but perhaps none contains more wisdom than his quip: “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.” And this from someone who had, in fact, known a great many real troubles!
Seneca reminds us of the same idea. “We suffer more often in imagination than in reality.” It’s a wise point worth reflecting on. How often do we tie ourselves up in knots over imagined troubles? How often do we let anxiety and worry get the better of us? How much of our pain is real and how many of it is fear about pain that might or might not actually happen?
Don’t let worry get the best of you. Stay in the present. Stay with your actual troubles—there’s plenty there.