Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Worry Is

I came across this on the Internet a few days ago: “Worry is like a prayer for something you really don’t want.”

I am a compulsive worrier.  I hate it.  I wish I were different in this one way.

I’m not exactly sure who said “Worry is like a prayer for something you really don’t want.”  A quick Google search leads me to “Christian author” Sophy Burnham, but I’m not 100% sure of this, so I apologize if I’ve made an incorrect attribution.  At any rate, the words resonated with me.

I’ve worried about different things over the years: friendships, relationships, children, health, children’s health, money, loneliness.  I think somewhere along the way, I learned (or was taught) that worry was like a bargain I was making with God: if I just made myself miserable worrying, God would see that I was not being arrogant or careless about my good fortune and would make sure nothing really bad ever happened to me, as a reward.

Intellectually, I know this is stupid.  But the worry grooves have already been carved deep into my brain.  I can’t stop.

Monday, on my 3-mile run, I decided to use the worry thing as an affirmation.  I timed it out to coincide with the rhythm of my steps: Worry is like/a prayer for something/you really don’t want. 

I would zone out for a few blocks and then check in with myself, to see if I was still affirming.  Sometimes I was.  Sometimes I’d mucked up the words.  One time I caught myself saying: War is like/a prayer for something/you really don’t want.  Another time it was: Prayer is like/a worry.  I self-corrected.

As I was heading for the hill on Townsend, two little girls were pushing their scooters up to the top.  They looked to be about seven.  Clearly, they were celebrating Presidents’ Day.  They careened down the hill ahead of me, shrieking with happiness.  They did not wear helmets.  One of them was in a dress and barelegged.  They zoomed straight down the middle of the street, oblivious to the curve at the bottom, the possibility that a fast-moving car might suddenly appear, heading right for them.

When I got to the bottom of the hill and began my slow chug up Cliff, I checked in with myself.  My affirmation had become: Where are the/goddamn idiot/parents?

I self-corrected.

Then I thought, Assuming those little girls aren’t hit by a bus, they are going to end up being joyful and fearless, which is a pretty good way to go through life.  Maybe if I had been allowed to speed down a hill like that, I would be a different person.

Then I realized that I WAS allowed to speed down a hill like that.  (On a bike.  We didn’t have scooters.)  And no one watched me or told me about cars around the corner or made me wear a helmet.

So I don’t know what the answer is.  I’m back to thinking it’s just how I’m wired.

Worry is really tough to turn around.  But I am going to keep trying. 

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