I am constantly seeing medical dangers and significance everywhere. I don’t have a headcold, I have meningococcal meningitis! And will soon die! And then I start thinking about how tragic this will be for everyone I know, and how sad they will be when they hear how this bright young life was snuffed out so needlessly. What will they say at my funeral? Etc. … and then I get over whatever extremely minor ailment it is, and forget all the dreadful predictions I made. Until the next time I get sick, and it isn’t a headache, it’s brain cancer! Or maybe a tapeworm has gotten in my head!
This is really a problem for my friends/family members that are doctors (like SurgeonFriend Elisabeth), and thus subject to my frequent panicked calls and detailed descriptions of what is going on with my body. A few weeks ago, I had a mosquito bite on my arm, and it was infected, so obviously it was MRSA. I called my godfather to confirm my suspicions that I should head to the emergency room.
Luckily, my brilliant godmother (and intermediary to my godfather) answered, and gave me the best quote ever. She was saying it in the context of medical maladies, but I believe it can apply to many other things, too:
“If it’s making a galloping noise, it’s probably a horse, not a zebra.” In other words, the simplest explanation is probably — not always, but probably — the correct one.
I still felt compelled to describe the bite in great detail to the godfather (who told me to put Neosporin on it), but since then, the horse/zebra thing has percolated down to lots of other areas of life.
And so now, when I am unreasonably fretting about something and coming up with zebra explanations (“My boss is quiet this morning, so I’ll bet she’s going to fire me!”), I try to steer myself back towards horse-thinking (“She’s probably tired or busy.”)