“I find that when I worry about things that might happen, they never happen. Then I think, well if I don’t worry about it, it will happen. So, I just worry about everything." - Don, age 86.
I overheard these profound words of wisdom at my morning exercise class. Oh, Don, spoken like a true worrier. I can so relate. Some might call it worrying, some might even call it obsessing. In any case, my mind’s belief that it can solve my problems, both real and imagined, by mulling them over and over again has me in a state. In fact, I worry that I worry too much. And on and on it goes. Like a hamster in a wheel, those thoughts keep rolling.
I’m pretty sure that I am part of a tribe of worriers. I do take comfort in knowing that I am not the only one, but still, it can be exhausting.
When I was a child, and difficult situations would arise, my dad used to say, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about that”, as if that put a lid on the boiling pot. I thought, "Good luck with that." And, truth is, I could tell he was worried, and was just trying to talk himself out of it. I never did believe him.
Yesterday, I was talking to my friend, Carol, about a Craigslist ad I had posted. She said, “I will never meet up with a person from Craigslist by myself. I always take a friend or my husband along. And it has to be in a public place.” She added, “I know people who have been murdered! I’m from Chicago!” This might, in fact be a legitimate worry. Which was a stunning reminder that I have one more thing to worry about.
My son, David, gives me all sorts of fodder for angst. I worry that he does not eat healthfully, I worry that he has no friends, I worry that his brain is rotting from all the TV he watches.
When I express my latest mental upset, David stubbornly refuses to engage. He says, “You’re just looking for something to worry about”, which indeed I might be. But isn’t everyone?
I envy the non-obsessive minds of my husband and my son. They honestly do not worry. Whether it be because of some form of Attention Deficit Disorder, keeping their minds focused only on what is in front of their faces at that exact moment, or whether it is genetically built into them, they honestly do not fret.
Sometimes when John and I are sleeping late on a Saturday morning, I have to get up and out of bed, because the wheels will not slow down. John says, “Don’t tell me, you’ve got a racing mind, don’t you?” That’s what he calls it, my “racing mind”. Indeed, it is on full speed and I am replaying that old conversation or worrying about what I could have said differently, or how I’ll approach that person next time I see her. Which causes me to roll out of bed and at least find something else to do, like read the morning paper.
Meanwhile, John rolls over and resumes slumber.
Is my worry, as Don suggests, keeping the harmful stuff at bay? I think not.
Because in truth, the things I worry about have not happened (yet), and things I couldn’t even imagine happening did indeed occur. Some kind of big awful things. And some trivial things which weren’t so pleasant.
But here is the thing: I got through the rotten stuff. And worrying did not make a difference either way.
There is no rhyme or reason to worry. Worry is not rational. And even if Don says worry keeps the awful stuff away, I think he is wrong. But maybe he is not.
It’s just one more thing to worry about.