Wednesday, January 29, 2014

What, me worry?

My natural tendency is to worry. It has been my habit since I was a tiny toddler, probably since I was a baby. I might have worried in utero, who can say? Part of that has to do with my eternally dodgy stomach. A slightly sour stomach is associated with worry in Chinese medicine. So interesting that my symptoms matched my behavioral tendencies long before I could even talk. Chinese medicine is amazing.

I've worked hard to break the worry habit, initially during my years in therapy. Do not misunderstand - my ten years on the couch saved my life - but I found I could not talk myself out of worrying. Worry is not rational, after all.

At some point I decided to look at worry as if it were nothing more than a habit like nail biting or hair twisting. I decided to pay attention, to notice when I was worrying, let go of the story I was spinning, and think of other things. There was an excruciating summer when I was starting my practice. Money was extremely tight that summer. I was beside myself with worry. How would I feed the dog? Would I end up on the street? That summer I had to remind myself not to worry at least every five minutes. My mind grasped every possible topic that could be worrisome, and hung on tight. Worry was a tyrant that summer. I took to saying STOP out loud to myself every time I noticed I was worrying. It was relentless. But I got through the summer, my business picked up and I prevailed. Whew.

Worrying is exhausting. It's part of the human experience, hence perfectly natural to lapse into it from time to time. But a chronic worrier wears herself out, believe me. I've been there.

What's the opposite of worry? The most noble opposite would be trust, right? I think less lofty behaviors, such as denial, are reasonable contenders for the opposite end of the worry spectrum. I have nothing against denial by the way - it's part of our survival instinct and necessary at times. The breaking of denial is, in almost every instance, a revelation. It's almost worth the denial just for the big ah-ha moment. Not always.

I like to think maybe I don't worry so much as I once did because I've learned some things about trust as I've grown older. My spiritual path is very clear and my relationship with the Divine is intimate. It really helps. Also because like everyone else I dip into denial now and again, I'm better able than I once was to put worry aside for awhile. Chinese medicine has eased my perpetual stomach ache and hence has contributed greatly to my ability to trust rather than worry.

Also of course I worry less because now I'm in my sixties. Everything from here on seems like gravy to me. I worry less about all the mistakes I've already made, and less about the mistakes I'll make in the future. I even worry less about the mistakes I'm making at this very minute. For instance: I'm drinking strong black tea in mid afternoon which is likely to keep me awake tonight. It is so delicious on this cold, windy January afternoon, well worth some potential toss and turn this evening. I am not worried! This is a good thing.

One thought that came to me yesterday is that maybe I should have worried more while I was sick, because I touched the grave when I got sick, as the Voice in the Shower explained. I was gravely ill. My fever spiked to almost 103 F. - way too hot for someone of my age. I even took an aspirin to bring it down. I never do that! My entire digestive system shut down. Getting it up and going again was a monumental endeavor. Bloody hell.

Should I have worried? I asked the Voice in the Shower this morning. I swear what I heard in response was a friendly chuckle.

Whatever it was that kept me from consciously acknowledging how ill I was probably helped more than hurt. I went to see the acupuncturist repeatedly, I drank the teas he prescribed. I forced myself to eat and I watched all those Cary Grant movies. I did what I needed to do. Should I have worried? I say no. And anyway, it's over now.

Life is good and I am grateful! L'chaim.



  1. Worry makes perfect sense from an evolutionary standpoint. It helps us suss out problems and helps us plan solutions. Like many things, though, the goodness of worry has its limitations. You gotta know when to stop, and how to get off that train!

  2. I can't really say I worry but it just seems like I am stuck in limbo...I'm not happy...I'm not unhappy...I just keep thinking there must be something more for the rest of my life. Yet I don't want to make an effort for change. Of late it is consuming me...

  3. Something will shift is my guess. We're heading into the year of the green wood horse. Nothing holds still in a horse year. Up, up and away!

  4. thank you for this, Reya...looking forward to it!