Guilt, Worry, and Our Best Laid Plans

“The best laid plans of mice and men go often askew and leave us nothing but grief and pain”.

In 1785, Scottish poet, Robert Burns wrote, “To a Mouse”, addressing the small creature as a fellow mortal.  In the poem, a farmer’s plow ruins this mouse’s nest in December, at the crack of winter. 

He felt for this mouse, understanding the work it took to build his nest and now the warmth and comfort it was providing, was taken away in an instant. 

But, as he empathizes with the mouse, he counts him lucky as compared to being human.  The mouse is only affected by the present moment.  We humans however, are burdened with dreary thoughts of past prospects that didn’t work out.  Haunted by an unpredictable future that cannot be seen, but how we try our best to ponder it.  We worry and fear, while we plan and pursue with a vision of what could be. 

We sacrifice, build, work, take risks, anticipate, contemplate, save, invest, and do our best to maintain a steady path towards something better.  But along the way, we’re troubled with an underlying anxiety, knowing that at any moment, our nest can be ruined with one passing of the plow. 

And when that plow exposes our warm nest to “winter’s sleety dribble”, what are we to do? 

Well, what’s done is done and what will be will be.  It is what it is. As Jim Morrison said, “The time to hesitate is through.  No time to wallow in the mire.  Try now, we can only lose.” 

Our human brains allow us to prognosticate the future and contemplate the past.  It’s a gift and a luxury, but it can also be a prison of guilt and worry.  Both have serious detrimental effects, not only psychologically, but physically. 

Punishing ourselves with guilt, doesn’t make whatever we’ve done wrong, right.  More pain is not the path to happiness.  And worry is a cunning liar.  It make us feel like we’re doing something, when we’re doing nothing.  Sometimes, there’s nothing we can do, so we worry, which is psychologically understandable, but it wreaks havoc on us. 

We’re so weird!   

When reality hits our plans and “nests” sideways, I’m with the mouse.  He’s resilient, agile, flexible, and takes action.  He’ll curse and wallow later, I’m sure.  I’m not sure.  I don’t know how mice think. 

Worry and guilt deal with the future and the past, neither of which are real.  Not yet and not anymore.  I found the best way to predict the future is to wait until it becomes the past and so far, I’m about 90% accurate.

Now is the only place reality exists.

Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

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