Worrying Won’t Fix the Furnace

I come from a long line of worriers. Generation after generation fretting about what might happen. Afraid of how terrible it will be when that inevitable ‘bad’ thing shows up

I call it future tripping.

Those of you who know me well know I have played the victim once or twice (or alot) in my life. I often thought “bad things happened TO me. It was just my luck. There was nothing I could do.” But that wasn’t the truth at all.

The truth is, consciously or unconsciously, I was choosing those things.

Here’s an example. A couple weeks ago my Monday got off to a rocky start. I report to my home office for work at 6am. I am not a morning person. My boss is usually raring to go on Monday. She likes to “hit the ground running.” I have never in my life hit the ground running. My mother can attest to that. I felt like I’d been shot out of a cannon. So after three and a half hours straight on various phone calls for work, I needed a break.

I left the room and noticed it felt kind of cold in the hallway. I use a space heater during the day in my office so it was pretty toasty in there. I went downstairs and checked the thermostat. 56 degrees. In my house. That’s a little chilly. The thermostat is set to 60 so I knew the furnace had stopped working.

Before I even had time to think, automatic pilot kicked in. Panic! Oh my god! What am I going to do? Who will I get to fix this? How will I pay for it? It was a complete and utter ‘Chicken Little, the sky is falling’ moment. For those of you who tend to panic and fear the worst, you know what I mean. But as that familiar feeling started to set in, I heard another voice in my head. (Yes, I hear voices. Don’t judge me.) The voice said, “What if you just didn’t worry about this?”

That stopped me dead in my tracks. Because up to that point, worrying did not feel like a choice. But all of a sudden, in that moment, it was. Worry or don’t worry. Either way the furnace isn’t working.

So I just decided to stop worrying.

I was surprised by how relaxed I felt. When you don’t worry, you’re not all stressed out about something you cannot control. I checked the fuse box, took the cover off the front of the furnace and peered around. Nothing obvious jumped out at me so I put the cover back on and walked away. I had some errands to run so I just left the furnace behind.

I enjoyed being away from my office. I took my time and didn’t allow myself to rush. I stopped at the grocery store in the middle of the day. I didn’t worry.

When I got back home and walked in my house, I was surprised by how warm it felt. I checked the thermostat. 60 degrees. The furnace was working again. Without any help from me.

I wish I could say that was the end of my worrying. That I’d learned my lesson. That my fear was gone forever! But I think we all know it doesn’t work that way. My automatic reaction is still fear most of the time. It will take some time to retrain my brain. But now I catch myself. I stop the panic train before it goes tearing out of the station. I breath.

And then I can choose…worry or not. It’s really up to me.


I’d love to hear your comments below. If you liked this post, then please ‘Like’ it and share with your friends. And don’t forget to click ‘Follow’ to get email notifications whenever I post something new. But most of all…thank you for reading and being a part of my journey.


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. conniepace
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 06:18:20

    Oh for sure I can relate! How wonderful though that you caught it, let go, and it came back on! What a cool “test” for you!


    • Shannon McDonough
      Nov 14, 2012 @ 15:03:42

      It was really cool, Connie. The shift felt almost visceral…rather than ‘thinking’ my way through, it seemed more of an instinct. Like…oh yeah…this is how it’s done. Hard to explain, but definitely cool!


  2. bri
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 10:53:07

    chad, my ex-husband, used to tell me that i pre-worried everything. i would worry about every possible good or bad outcome to everything and do absolutely anything in my power to make sure the situation, whatever it was, would turn out ‘right’. whatever that meant?
    it took me a while to retrain my brain. but some one told me one time that you can’t choose what happens or what others do. but you can choose how you react.
    that is what gets me through. my reaction and how i handle things is my sole control. i am not always successful, but keeping that in focus helps me to not ‘freak out’.
    as always… you inspire me to be better. love you!


    • Shannon McDonough
      Nov 14, 2012 @ 15:12:43

      It is a retraining of the brain, as you said Bri. It has been a habit for me to worry (and I’m guessing for you too), so for a long time it didn’t feel like a choice. My ex, Cyrus, also pointed out my tendency to worry by giving me a ‘worry stone’…a stone you’re supposed to rub when you’re worried, but on the back there’s this little test of what to worry about. Which is basically nothing 😉

      You are right. You can’t control anyone or anything…only how you choose to react to it and who you are in any given situation. It’s a work in progress so be gentle with yourself and I’ll remember to do the same.

      I love you too!!


  3. Meagan
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 13:48:24

    When people find out what Josh and Zach do for a living the reaction often is – don’t you worry about them all the time? Or how do you deal with the fear? The truth is that I don’t really worry about them. I love them, I want them to be safe, but what happens out on their job is so far out of my control I can’t imagine what the point would be to worry about it. So I do agree – worrying is a choice we have!!


    • Shannon McDonough
      Nov 14, 2012 @ 15:17:00

      That’s such a great point, Meagan…it’s out of your control. I think the interesting thing about worrying is in a weird way we think it will protect us from that ‘bad’ thing happening. But the only thing worrying ever does for me is make me feel bad. So more and more, I’m not choosing it 🙂


  4. Donna
    Nov 14, 2012 @ 15:48:01

    What a great article Shannon, there is a great lesson there for all of us….and I love your comment above “the only thing worrying ever does for me is make me feel bad”. Amen to that!!!


    • Shannon McDonough
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 18:09:37

      Thank you Donna! Aside from feeling bad, worry also takes me out of the present moment. God knows how much I’ve missed because I was so busy worrying. So thankful I can see that now 🙂


  5. Shawn
    Nov 14, 2012 @ 15:48:50

    All these replies ring so true. I don’t sleep because I worry. When things are going good for too long, I worry when the other shoe is going to fall. Every once in a while I can let go of the worry and I can resume breathing.The brain is slow to learn new lessions. Let go and let God and breathe again!


    • Shannon McDonough
      Nov 16, 2012 @ 18:12:42

      Oh Shawn…I’ve had that ‘the other shoe is going to drop’ worry too. But like I said above, I’ve missed so much because worrying takes me out of the present moment. I wasn’t able to enjoy what was right in front of me. The brain IS slow, but it can learn new ways of thinking. We just have to be aware so we can consciously carve that new mental pathway. And yes…in the meantime, just breathe. It will all work out…it always has 🙂


  6. Rebecca Smuk
    Dec 08, 2022 @ 08:33:38

    I panic constantly. It’s really exhausting. I have a constant knot in the pit of my stomach. Nothing helps, my brain is on high alert all of the time. I can’t even sleep more than a few hours without a panic attack. I’m so tired of living like this.


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