Preparing for the worst

On New Year’s Day 2005, a woman went to visit her cancer- and bedridden father, and her trained doctor’s eye saw that he was looking rather peaky. Realizing that her father was probably going to die any day, she called the rest of the family together so that they could come and see him one last time. She also began making funeral arrangements, which led certain family members to criticize her for being pessimistic enough to believe that her father was really going to die; ‘coaxing him into his coffin’ was how someone put it. But she saw it as being realistic enough to accept that the end was near and having the presence of mind to prepare for the worst so that the unpleasantness and shock would be somewhat mollified. Two days later, her father died.

The mans came over last night and upon entering the bedroom and discovering that the hideous stuffed animals were gone and the shelves next to the desk were empty save for the printer, he thought all was lost and the time had come to start packing up to go home. After being reassured that the slightly emptier bedroom was merely the result of purging the apartment of all unwanted items so as to avoid clutter, he proceeded to bemoan how ‘cleaning up’ was a sign of getting ready to give up on the H1 — or lack thereof — and go back to Malaysia. So I told him that I had to stay in this frame of mind so as not to jinx my chances of actually getting the H1, and so that if it ever came to the prospect of going home, the blow would not fall as hard or hurt as much.

So is preparing for the worst a sign of overwhelming and unnecessary discouragement, or just astonishingly insightful forethought? Are we getting ready to throw in the towel, or are we just trying not to jinx ourselves, given how slim the chances already are? Maybe we’re just realistic enough to know that until everything is down in black and white, or until we hear that affirmation, nothing is ever really certain, and therefore we can’t just sit around and tell ourselves, “Everything’s going to be all right.”

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