Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Worry Much?

There was panic a few years ago, but you guys talked me off the entirely metaphorical ledge. On the other end of the drama there's the fretting and stewing I do about choosing the right dress or the right word of the year. Even I know that's silly and that it's not really worrying me. Then there's worry, and that's been occupying rather a lot of my psychic space these days.

Reasonable? Unreasonable? I really couldn't say. Things might, in fact, go badly, and my worrying will be proven true. Those of us who are worriers think that, on some level, our worry holds the universe together. What, I ask you, will happen if I stop worrying about my children???? It's not the only thing I do with (or for, depending on your perspective) them, but it's one of the services I provide.

Yet, as I stared at the ceiling for most of last night worrying -and most emphatically NOT sleeping- I realized two things. First, while I worry about anything and everything, I worry most uselessly and repetitively when I feel powerless -frequently about a particular thing. So the thrashing around about many little things is to hide the really big thing I can't/won't/don't deal with.

OK. There's probably a solution for that.

Then... worry is sort of the antithesis of the word of the year. I don't want to get all The Secret-y about this, because there is so much absolutely dangerous crap in those ideas I'd scandalize myself by allying with them. But, let's try this line of thought. With our words of the year, we say to the universe and our subconscious, "here's the dream." I'm working toward.... this. It might be balance or zest or courage or architecture, in my case. We know -really, we do- that the universe might provide something quite different. But we're saying that we are opening up space for this new perspective or focus in our lives. To borrow from my latent Catholicism, we are co-creators of our reality.

Now -and bear with me, here- couldn't worry do the same thing, only backwards? With all the time that I spend fretting about the jillions of things that could go wrong, am I not a little bit guilty of using that power of co-creation thoughtlessly? I throw these thoughts out into the universe, my subconscious hears them, and sets about creating exactly that scenario? Establishing a word of the year is a mindful process. Worry is mind-less, in a big, big way.

So... what to do? I need to acknowledge the things I'm feeling powerless about and claim the power that is authentically mine in those situations. There are things I can do to change the powerlessness (to some extent) and there are things I can do to create an entirely new situation. These are long-term plans. Right now, I have to ride out the storm and live toward my word of the year, actually. Build the infrastructure of this new life not so that you have perfect control (what is that, anyway?) but so that fewer things terrify you.

And I need to be mindful. I need to pay attention to where I put my thoughts. I need to do more than that, of course, but that would be a good start. When I was most panicked about my life, you all encouraged me to think of one small thing I could do to move forward. Tiny was entirely acceptable. (You're a great crowd!) The second one of those repetitive thoughts happens, I can replace it with "What is this trying to teach me? I am powerful. What can I do about it?"

If nothing else happens, maybe I'll get some sleep.


jayesh.badani said...

absolutely, if you think you can't seep, you won't (even if you could have!!)

Liked the quote on your blog header.


jill said...

"What, I ask you, will happen if I stop worrying about my children????"

Well, for one thing, they may worry about you less.

I don't want to speak for them, but I do know from my experience that when a loved one worries about me, it makes me tense and irritable. I am not a worrier by nature, and their anxiety for my well-being makes me concerned for their stress levels and general health.

If there is something that I am concerned about and they are overly worried on my behalf, it does not lessen my burdens: it increases them, because I feel I not only have to fix whatever is wrong for my sake, but also for theirs. If I don't perceive that there is anything to be worried about, I range from concerned to aggravated that they are borrowing trouble.

I once described it thusly: "For my Italian husband and his family, worry is proof of love and devotion. For Scandinavian me, it is like a poorly made dog whistle. It does not compel, it only annoys."

Andrea Buford said...

Jill, you're right, of course. Worry has a weight that care does not. Since I believe that "don't worry" has to be one of the silliest sentences in the English language -how exactly is it a choice?- I try to balance it with more light-hearted things with my loved ones. And to hide the pointless worry as much as I can.

Nina said...

when you're worried and you can't sleep,
just count your blessings instead of sheep,
and you'll fall asleep
counting your blessings.

just let Bing sing you to sleep.

jill said...

Oh, my darling, I'm not saying, "Don't worry."

I don't know what worriers do to stop - I am a Myers-Briggs "T" of the first water, and I can often dismiss my own rare worry with rationality.

I don't know what an "F" does to deal with worry - but I'll bet there are coping skills you can learn. Our friend Lianne may know of some - or she may know some people who do.

Lisa :-] said...

Funny for me to say this--being the devout agnostic that I am. But when I am tempted to worry (read: obsess) I remember the words of Jesus that went something like, "Which of you will add one day to your lives by worrying?" Makes sense to me...