Some of your hurts you have cured,
and the sharpest you still have survived,
but what torments of grief you’ve endured,
from evils which never arrived.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Has worrying ever done you any good?
It hasn’t ever done me any good. I wasn’t always a worrier. Some people are born worriers, it’s just their nature. Same as some people are unflappable from the word go. I wasn’t born a worrier, I became one, however, as I was saddled with too much responsibility at a young age and often subjected to extreme consequences for the slightest mistake, or no mistake at all. Once the “what if’s” were born, my imagination was often given to running away with me. My grandmother said it once or twice too, “Oh well, you were a worrier” or “You were a mother hen” though she didn’t know why I was that way or realize that it wasn’t necessarily my nature to worry. I’m a lot like she was in a lot of ways. I don’t know if she ever really knew or understood me, but I know she loved me and I understood her. My grandmother would have been ninety years old this month. She passed away fourteen years ago and I was incredibly blessed to have her for that long. She was a worrier. She was always worried about something or someone, always afraid she’d miss some emergency phone call. For years and years, she apparently did whatever was asked of her for their church, to the point of physical and mental exhaustion, but I don’t know if she was always that way or if it was something that developed as a side effect of circumstances or experiences. She cared about people deeply. But worrying didn’t ever do her any good, and I don’t know that worrying has ever done me any.
The things I worried about, whatever they were at any given time, never turned out to be the catastrophes that actually happened. The very nature of being blindsided is in not seeing whatever it is coming. The things that yanked the rug out from under my life at one time or another weren’t things I’d seen coming or imagined, or could have prepared for even if I had. The only possible exception to that might be this “I should have/could have saved more money,” but the truth about that is that there are plenty of millionaires whose millions don’t save them from calamity or keep them alive either. And there are plenty of situations where staying calm, level headed, and not worrying is far more valuable than money.
I think that perhaps the act of worrying itself often feels like “doing something” in situations where there is otherwise nothing we can do. Does that provide some release or relief? I can only speak for myself and say that for the most part, I’ve never known it to be anything other than wasted energy. Worry is fear in sheep’s clothing. Worry is “I’m afraid of what if…” and what will I do and what can I do and what’s going to happen. How much of our time, our lives, when everything is actually fine, do we eat up with that kind of thinking and/or emoting and stressing? It’s all the constant political brouhaha that got me to thinking that perhaps we’re missing a bigger picture. Everyone has taken the bait, “Look over there!” and is seemingly focused on one thing, looking in the same direction, in a constant state of low-level anxiety punctuated by the occasional societal frenzy when some event does actually occur. Then it’s “We’ve got to do something!” This generally results in doing nothing more than venting, complaining, adding to the overall noise level, and then settling into worrying about not really being able to do anything about whatever it is, which ultimately prevents any kind of real or actual change. People get of a mind that anything that must be done must be something huge, and then fail to see how changing their own individual habits might contribute to the overall good. They’ll complain about litter or the environment but then can’t be bothered to walk across a parking lot to throw something away or return a shopping cart to the cart corral. Folks don’t begin with an examination of their own conflicted ideals, they’ll voice support for environmental regulation, say they think something like “The Green New Deal” is great, and then be outraged when PG&E subjects millions of customers to being without power essentially because PG&E is tired of being blamed for what amounts to poor management OF the forestry department. Forestry and fire departments need to be allowed to cut firebreaks and clear dead, dry, brush. But, somewhere someone decided the firebreaks looked unsightly or that these practices disturbed the “natural habitat” too much. Then fire season arrives and the bureaucrats looking for someone other than themselves to blame don’t care, so they unload it on PG&E, and make some money off them too, because what they actually want is to take over control of the power grid. Meanwhile, their private properties have probably been properly maintained. And on and on and on. I’m waiting for someone to look up at the Altamont and decide that the windmills are unsightly, a blight on the natural horizon, or to start complaining about the raptors and Golden Eagles that are killed every year by the turbines, and really set about that issue.
I suddenly thought, I’m not going to worry anymore, I’m just not going to do it. And I felt very calm. Then I heard this saying, for the first time, though it’s obviously been around for a while, “Give it to God and go to sleep.” Well, that’s beautiful. Imagine if you could just do that, when you’ve done what you could or can or even just from the get-go. Beautiful.
The sky isn’t falling, that’s just how it feels sometimes to be alive.
The thing is, for most of us, there probably isn’t any such thing as freedom from calamity, catastrophe, disaster, crisis, whatever you want to call it. That is the truth. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, time and circumstance happen to us all. I accept that. I’m no longer going to let what “might” happen someday or whenever, steal the joy from moments of calm, from today.
So, I’ve made a decision to let go of the habit of worrying. Is it just that simple? Well, oddly, yeah, it kind of feels like it is at this juncture of experience and knowledge that I’ve arrived at. I’m just not going to worry anymore. Why bother? We’ll see how it goes.