A group of friends and I were talking about worry yesterday. I read that worry was like sitting in a rocking chair. It feels like you are doing something, but it gets you nowhere. I have spent countless hours of my life in worry. And, I’ll never get those hours back. Still, I have a bad habit of worrying. Right now I’m caught up in worry about career. Will I ever retire? Is this the right career for me? Would I rather pursue writing? Am I missing an opportunity? Sometimes it keeps me up at night. And, then I remember … worrying is not really productive. I’m rocking …. rocking … harder and faster … but going nowhere.
I have been a worrier all of my life. When I was not working so that I could be a wife, I was worried I should be working. When I was working, I was worried that I was being greedy and selfish. When I buy things that I want, I worry that I should be saving the money. When I save the money, I worry that I’m missing out on life unnecessarily. When I was married, I was worried that it was going to end. When it ended, I worried that I might never be married again. This worry thing is crazy, and what I know now is that it’s all a figment of my imagination. The world does not react to my worrying. It does not change my decision-making. It does not change the course of events. It does not change anything but my quality of life.
I’ve learned that worry hurts my brain. Really…. if I get into a pattern of worrying about something, my brain starts to hurt. What I know is that when I think about something, my body reacts as if it is already happening. So, if I worry about getting divorced, my stress levels go up, my hormones start activating as if in danger, and I start medicating and reacting with all of my negative coping mechanisms. I can’t react positively because there’s nothing REAL to react to. I just suffer… and so do others around me. I know for me, when I’m in fear from worrying, I try to control the situation and other people to keep what I fear from happening. What it usually does is bring it on even faster…. or bring something far worse.
Once I “woke up” in my spiritual journey and realized how much time I was obsessing over what other people were doing and uncontrollable events, I struggled to overcome the habit of worrying. What I realized is that I had spent so much time worrying about what my husband was doing that might negatively impact my life that I didn’t have a life. My life was worrying about him and what was about to happen. I’m not kidding. And how do you give up something that has become your life? It was not easy. One technique I used was to compartmentalize my worry. If I caught myself worrying, I’d say, “Stop it. You can worry about this as much as you want from 5-5:30 this evening. I’ll set aside that time for worry.” Usually by the time 5 PM came along, I didn’t want to spend time worrying, but sometimes I did. Another thing I did was to refocus myself on my own life. If I was worrying about him or what was going to happen, I’d tell myself, “This is your life. It is about YOU. What do you want?” Maybe I wanted financial security. Maybe I wanted affection. Maybe I wanted to have fun. I could get all of those things on my own. I didn’t need somebody else to help me do it.
I had to get myself independent from an undependable person. It didn’t mean I had to divorce him, but I had to set boundaries around what was mine and become more self-sufficient in my happiness. If I was worried about whether or not he would lose his job, I had to figure out how to take care of myself if the worse would happen. If I was worried that he was not going to follow through on plans, then I had to plan to go without him if I really wanted to go. I had to remind myself constantly that he was undependable, and I had to act accordingly. This freed me up from a lot of worry. It gave me my life back. And, in turn, it gave his life back to him. It was a win-win for both of us.
I was astounded to find how much time I had available for building my own life when I quit worrying. Hours and hours were given back to me when my heart and my brain were my own. My own heart and soul started to open up, and I started to realized what I wanted. I have found that when I started working on my own life, desires, dreams and goals, I don’t have time for worry. In fact, when I worry about something now, it doesn’t feel comforting like it once did. And, frankly, I don’t have time for it. I’ll start to worry, and realize I have a lunch date with a friend. Can’t worry now. A full life with love and laughter and soul-enriching activities trumps worry. A rocking chair is nice when I’m rocking on a front porch in the Ozarks with a cool spring breeze blowing through my curly locks. It’s about time to plan a trip there, I think. I’ll worry about this job tomorrow, Scarlett … after all, tomorrow is another day.