I was eight or nine years old the night I couldn’t sleep and my dad sat down and asked me what was going on. My dad was a Brooks Brothers suit-and-tie, hors d’oeuvres and cocktails before dinner even at home kind of guy (with deadly accurate throwing-shoes-at-running-misbehaving-kids skills; it was the ‘70s), and we didn’t have a lot of heart-to-hearts until I got to college, but I remember this one.
I couldn’t sleep because I was all tangled up in worry about some school thing—a project or a test or something. I remember my dad sort of sighed and, instead of the “just go to sleep” I expected, asked me a question:
Did you do your best?
It was out of character, and I thought for a second before nodding my head. “Then that’s all you can do,” he said. “What’s going to change if you lie here all night and worry about it?” I snuffled back tears and mumbled, “nothing.”
He sat for a minute and said, “If you did your best, there’s no point to worrying about it. You’ll just make yourself tired and won’t be able to do your best tomorrow. And worrying doesn’t change anything. So let it go. Think about something else.” And he went back to bed. I did too, after a little while.
It was a great conversation for a little girl worried about school, and it’s a good one now, when we’re all worried about our health, our loved ones, our companies, and our general well-being—and everything else. I don’t remember living through a more stressful time and I certainly never thought I’d live through something like a world-shuttering pandemic. I’m spending more effort than usual focusing on the right-now: Right now, I’m working. Right now, we’re healthy. Right now, we have plenty of groceries. Right now, I have these six things to do. And tomorrow will come whether I lie awake worrying about it or not, so that’s pointless (I am too old for such exhaustion, anyway).
Our family has been working hard in our own spaces during the day, but we’ve come together for dinner and a movie almost every night since our stay-at-home orders started in early March. Most of the movies are silly and lots are those we’ve seen before and loved, and sharing a meal and 90 minutes of laughter and goofiness together is good for all of us. We clean up afterwards, walk dogs, and go off to bed or late-night teenage e-socializing, and the next day always comes. I'm sleeping in fits and starts most nights just from latent stress, but haven't lain awake worrying--at least, not consciously.
Do your best and let it go. That’s all we can do—tomorrow will come.