The Art of Worrying

“Don’t worry so much about tomorrow that you miss the beauty and joy of today.”

I’m a born worrier, it’s built into my DNA and something I’ve fought my entire life.  I have very vivid memories as a child of worrying about all kinds of things – ghosts would get me (but they can’t see you if the pull the covers up to your neck), that the house would burn down, that my body would forget how to breathe (how does it know to just keep doing that???) and as I grew up and became an adult, I wasn’t much better.  I was (loosely) diagnosed with an ulcer at age 18 and in and out of doctors for years with stomach issues that most attributed to a nervous personality.  I paced the floor more times than I can count with a pounding heart, terrified by . . .I’m not sure what exactly.  I have an extreme phobia that I rarely talk about but it kept me paralyzed me almost to the point of being curled up in a ball on the floor.  I’m also a planner and I think worrying and planning go hand in hand – a worrier feels like if they can control more, anticipate more, stay organized and in control over every moment of their life, it’s all going to be OK.  I thought not just days but weeks, MONTHS in advance, planning every moment of every day but spent a lot of time being not just disappointed but devastated when something went wrong.

That all changed in 2004.  The rock in my world, my biggest cheerleader and biggest critic, my grandma died.  She never indulged my anxiety – she loved me, gave me a safe place but when I started to go off the deep end, she was the one telling me to stop, take a deep breath and really, really think – you are getting worried and upset and SICK about something that may never happen!  I never really understood what that meant until she died but I decided to live my life with more calm, more joy and less worry about what may never come.

So, I started therapy, I quit my job, I got off the fast track, I took 6 weeks off work and went back as an Accounting clerk, 3 good pegs down from my previous job.  I worked my way back up to my current company but I decided to structure my life totally different.  Less worry, less stress, more fun, more joy, more wonder, more new experiences, more time with friends.  I got tattoos, I para-sailed, I pushed myself to try things I never would have before.  Is my life perfect?  Far from it and I still love to plan a good event, I love to research trips and travel, cars to buy, restaurants to try but I don’t freak out if plans go awry and we need to come up with a new one.

Another big lesson I embraced was to learn how to politely and tactfully say no.  No to doing things that I didn’t really want to do but feared I would let someone down, no to things that I felt pressured to do by someone else but didn’t interest me or I just downright didn’t like. Women have SUCH a tough time saying no to anyone but the big secret is, you are a happier person for your friends and family when you give yourself a break, allow yourself the freedom to choose the things that bring satisfaction to your life and let go of the things that bring you stress and sadness.  Trust me – your friends, at least the good ones, will understand and love you anyway.

Finally, having a police officer as a husband will do that to you too – he joined the force in 2008 and admittedly, the transition was a tough one for me, even then but I know for a fact, if he had become an officer in our 20s or even early 30s, I probably wouldn’t have been able to handle it. . .it would have put a tremendous strain on our marriage and my well-being.  But now?  I’m proud of him in a way I never imagined but you have to get over the disappointment of cancelled plans, late nights, missed events and being alone pretty damn fast.  It still isn’t easy some days but whenever I feel the panic rising, I remember to stop, take that deep breath and remember to live in the moment, enjoy the beauty of the day and not waste time and energy worrying about tomorrow.

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