The Danger of Always Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop

2 04 2014
Do you ever sound like this? Well, read on... Photo:

Do you ever sound like this? Well, read on…

This week I learned quite the interesting fact: where the popular phrase, “waiting for the other shoe to drop” originated. In fact, in Brene’ Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she says:

That expression originated in the early 1900s, when new immigrants and people flooding to the cities were crammed into tenement housing where you could literally hear your upstairs neighbor taking off his shoes at night. Once you heard the first shoe hit the floor you waited for the other shoe to drop.

What was so fascinating to me was that a) I’d been using this phrase for so long and had no idea where it came from, and b) the original meaning really had nothing to do with how we use it now. Sure, it spoke to a foreboding anticipation in a way, but if you’re anything like me, you’ve used the phrase in the context of being afraid to be too happy about something  — which has absolutely nothing to do with anticipating your neighbor’s second shoe to hit the floor. Now, the “shoe” we speak of is so much more terrifying for us.

It’s funny when I think about the concept of being afraid to be too happy. It sounds crazy to say out loud. Heck, it looks crazy typing it for the blog. But I think most of us can admit to feeling that way at some point in our lives. Maybe it’s not something you struggle with a lot, but I’d be willing to bet we’ve all worried something was too good to be true at least once. And if you haven’t, well I’ll go on and admit that I have on several occasions.

In fact, one of the things I used to say to a good friend of mine was that I could handle anything, but I hated being blind sided. And she understood exactly what I meant, because she too hated being blind sided. Together, we both went about mastering the art of planning for what could happen to ruin our good vibes. All the damn time.

Which, of course, led to a lot of worrying. This meant that when a job opportunity would come along, I’d worry that I’d had too many great bosses, and so I was obviously due for a horrid one. When a raise would come through, I’d worry that I couldn’t possibly live up to whatever expectations my boss had for me being great, and that he/she would inevitably find out I wasn’t as good at my job as he/she thought. When a guy I was attracted to asked me on a date and that date went well, I’d worry that he didn’t feel the same way, and I’d never hear from him afterward or just in general, that something, anything would happen that would inevitably mess things up.

I mean geez, talk about a kill joy!

But you know, as I read about the origins of the phrase, what it really showed me was the cold, hard truth about all the time I’d spent waiting for all my shoes to drop — every single second was time wasted.

You see, the ironic thing about me worrying about what bad thing was waiting for me around the corner was that usually, 9 times out of 10 in fact, there was no bad thing waiting for me! And when something did happen that was unfavorable, like the guy not calling back or the date going very, very wrong, I still managed to be okay.

Life still went on.

The dangerous part was that while life was going on, I’d managed to miss out on so many of my life’s celebrations. Not always, but just enough that I when I look back, I can see distinct times when I didn’t allow myself to enjoy the good in my life because I was so concerned about the bad that might follow.

But life, a fulfilled life, is all about stringing together the combination of little and big moments that work together to tell your story. So if you can’t be present in your own moments, then how are you enjoying your life? You’re really not.

Have any of you ever struggled with what Brene’ calls foreboding joy? You have something great happen to you and then you get a worrisome feeling that something is going to take that happiness from you? That you’ll fall from cloud 9 and hit the floor with a bang? If so, what did you do to get over that feeling?

And did you know about the origins of the expression before today? Was I all by myself in not knowing? haha




3 responses

2 04 2014

Listen, you just described me in your entire post. I have always been the negative Nancy in my head. It has kept me from participating in many things and fully enjoying life. When I first got serious with my husband, i kept preparing myself for things to end badly because that was all I knew. Good things only happened for short time before the bad shit hit the fan. In a relationship, it sucks because you don’t realize your full potential, you are so busy trying to “keep” someone else happy.
I’ve been actively working on changing my attitude because I do deserve to be happy in my relationship, in my job, and etc. Great post.

3 04 2014

Isn’t it amazing how we do so much damage to ourselves just being in our own head? But I’m so glad to know you’re working on it — we can do it together!!

Now, I recognize the feeling, and I mentally slap myself as soon as I go there. I’m like, “hey, what are you doing?! Don’t do that!” And I bring myself back into feeling the joy of the moment. It’s also good to know you’re not alone in doing it, you know?

Thanks love.

28 04 2015
That Pesky Foreboding Joy Thing Again | Choices, Voices, and Sole

[…] a concept we’ve talked about on the blog here already, but one that I wanted to explore again after the controversial death of beloved Grey’s […]

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