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I’m not sure what this little yellow flower is to a botanist, but when we were little we used to call them buttercups. They grew in the side yard between our house and Mr. Sattler’s. I never had the concept of a weed back then. Buttercups were just charming additions to the yard.

You can probably tell that I am still rather missing the concept of a weed. A weed is a plant whose name you have not yet learned. Once you learn the name it is not a stranger, but a friend.

This buttercup calls to mind the simplicity of childhood, before we knew how complicated life could be. We knew so little that we didn’t worry much, except about how to get out of the refrigerator box that our sisters put us in. When the immediate problem was solved, we were back to our unworried life.

Now that we are all grown up, we know a lot more. Knowing can help us solve problems, like I know my expired yeast may need a lot more time to get the dough to rise. Knowing how yeast works helps me anticipate a problem and work out a solution so my bread comes out as tasty as I hope. Knowing also creates problems. Once we know enough to anticipate a problem, we can anticipate endless problems. Knowing creates dread.

When a loved one gets a terrible, terminal, incurable diagnosis, dread comes roaring in. You can ask anxiety provoking questions about what will happen, but no one can answer with certainty the questions about what will happen to your patient and to you.

Dread is a bottomless pit. What is behind the door? A monster? Two monsters? Twelve smelly, fire-breathing, carnivorous monsters, who will shrink themselves to the size of a pin head and burrow into your skin and eat your spleen out while you die slowly of agonizing spleenal atrophy? You can see how there is no end to this.

Learning to curb your dread is a skill that you can learn. When you feel dread rising, narrow your focus to the present moment. Yes, there are a lot of scary things looming out there, but you cannot deal effectively with them if you are paralyzed by dread. Pause and breathe. The current moment is never as terrible as what you can dread. This moment is survivable.

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