Several months ago, after a long day at work, I opened my door to pick up a DoorDash order and discovered, underneath my freshly delivered dinner, a package that had likely been sitting there for hours.

It was a sizable box, stamped with Home Depot branding. Typically, I enjoy receiving packages, but I wasn’t expecting a delivery, and I hadn’t ordered anything from Home Depot. This must have been a mistake. Perhaps the delivery person got the wrong floor in my apartment building or the wrong building altogether. It’s happened before.

But when I leaned over and took a look, it clearly had my name on it. I read it twice just to be sure, but there it was: my name, followed by my exact apartment building and number. It appeared that nothing about this was an error.

Confused, I took the package inside and stared at it. I’m sure some people would have opened it right away, but I was suspicious. Either this was shipped to me through some bizarre accident, or it was sent to me by someone who knows where I live. Before I opened it, I wanted to know where it came from.

So I jumped into sleuthing mode, examining the package for clues. Up near my address, I found a phone number that wasn’t mine. Surely this number must be associated with the order or the person who had placed it. I wasn’t familiar with the area code, so I typed it into Google. And that is when things took a turn. That’s when my overthinking kicked into full gear.

The area code was LA. In theory, I don’t know anyone in LA who would ship me anything, and the few people I do know don’t have my address. But when I saw my Google search return Los Angeles, I started to panic. I panicked because there is one person I wouldn’t be shocked to learn had moved to LA since we last spoke. A person who would have undoubtedly changed their phone number to an LA area code to ensure they looked local for business dealings. It’s a person I hadn’t talked to in nearly two years, didn’t want to receive packages from, and most importantly, didn’t want knowing where I lived.

As I recount my line of thinking now, it sounds a bit ridiculous, even to me. But as I mentioned, it had been a long day, and I was tired. When I’m tired, I’m more prone to overthink. More prone to worry. The thought of this person having my address caused a pit in my stomach that I can’t really describe. In the past two years since moving into my apartment, I’d often comforted and prided myself in the knowledge that they didn’t have my address. The idea that they would have gone to the effort to find it and then ship me something was unnerving.

I knew it sounded farfetched, but I couldn’t find a better explanation. So, I put the package out on my patio (I didn’t even want it in my house) and somehow found enough peace to be able to sleep that night.

The next day, slightly more rested, I felt a little less creeped out by the whole thing. But it was confusing and there was still the chance that my worst fears would be realized. So, one of my best friends offered to come and open the package with me.

As soon as we opened it, I started laughing. Mostly from embarrassment, but also because it was genuinely funny. Inside of the box from Home Depot was a Swiffer I’d ordered off Amazon weeks earlier. It had been backordered, and I hadn’t realized it was finally set to deliver that week. I’d never received an Amazon delivery in anything other than an Amazon box. So, instead of jumping to the logical conclusion that this must be something I ordered, I allowed my imagination to run to frightening places.

I tell this story now because the more I think about it, the more I realize that the Swiffer isn’t the only thing I’ve done this with. It’s not the only time I’ve believed something that wasn’t true or worried about a threat that wasn’t real.

If we’re honest, I think we’ve all done it at times. Things come in packages we don’t recognize. They show up at times we don’t expect them to. They leave clues that can lead us astray. A job offer takes longer than expected, a loved one responds cryptically to a message you sent, or you wake up one day with a headache that won’t’ go away.

When these things happen, we have a choice about the stories we tell ourselves. We have a choice about how we respond. We can choose to look at things through a lens of fear and worry; we can choose to focus on the worst-case scenario, or we can look for hope and seek understanding.

We can decide that the job offer is taking so long because they’ve gone in another direction. Or, we can remind ourselves that it’s also possible they’re just weeding out other candidates or deciding how much they should offer. We can tell ourselves that our loved one is pissed off and offended, or we can remind ourselves that they had a busy day and maybe didn’t have time for a longer response. We can Google our symptoms and decide our headache is a tumor, or we can recognize that it’s possible we didn’t drink enough water the day before and we might be dehydrated.

Am I saying to always look through rose-colored glasses and ignore indicators of bad news? Please don’t hear that. We need to deal with reality. When things go poorly (and at some point, they will), we need to respond accordingly. But we don’t need to decide that things have gone poorly before we actually have hard evidence and facts.

If the headache doesn’t go away, go see a doctor. If the job offer doesn’t come, follow up or move on. If the loved one continues to respond cryptically, have a real conversation and ask what’s going on. But don’t decide early on that you’re dying, doomed to be unemployed, or about to lose an important relationship. All you’re doing in that scenario is allowing the thing you’re focused on to steal your peace and joy.

That night I received the package? I didn’t enjoy my DoorDash order, and my evening was shot. I spent dinner Googling phone numbers to try to prove my crazy theory wrong. Once I moved on from that, I was still churning over in my head what could possibly be in that package and whether or not I should leave it in my house.

What would have been a better response? I could have called my friend that night and asked her to talk some sense into me. I could have admitted to myself that I overthink when I’m tired. I could have decided to just open the package. I could have reminded myself that even if this was the worst-case scenario—that it was from someone I didn’t want to hear from—I would ultimately be fine. I’m in a safe neighborhood and have a strong support system. Them learning my address would not be the end of the world. Through much worse, God has cared for and protected me.

Sometimes, we spend so much time worrying about what’s behind a door (or inside of a package) that we allow that fear to keep us from moving forward. Often, the things we imagine are worse than the reality. We think that if we have that conversation, if we open the box, we’ll find our worst nightmare staring back at us. And the truth is that we could. We could discover that the person we don’t want contact from has our address—that the delivery we’ve received is far from desirable. But more likely, when we open that box, we’ll find a Swiffer staring back at us.

Photo by Brandable Box on Unsplash