Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Worrying vs. Being Prepared

I'm going to date myself by quoting the Violent Femmes...

People worry
what are they worrin about today
seems like there's a good reason
to worry worry worry
I'd sit around listening to your story
if I wasn't in such a hurry hurry hurry
-Violent Femmes - Confessions

I picked up a copy of the "Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much" book as suggested by Julieann. There are some interesting thoughts. Some of it makes no sense - but I believe that's part of the whole meditation concept.

One of the entries dealt with worry - and how it is pointless. Typically, the things we worry about never come to fruition, so why worry about them? When sorrow happens, who can say that it was helpful to worry about it beforehand?

Needless to say, I disagree that worrying is pointless.

It should come as no surprise to my readers or friends that I worry. A lot.

I do come by it honestly - one in a long line of worriers.

A few weeks ago, my mother called in terror that we had been flooded (I'm sure that's not the correct English phrase, btw). There were lots of storms here in the midwest, and I'm sure there were people whose homes were flooded. Maybe they were two states over, but there was a lot of damage. Surprisingly, later that week, my grandmother (her mother) called with the same concern. Part of me thinks that both my mother and grandmother spend too much time watching the weather channel - another part of me knows that they just like to worry.

I agree that some worrying is pointless. Worrying about how your daughter/eldest granddaughter may or may not have a flooded basement is pretty pointless. To be fair, perhaps they worry about me since they know I can take care of myself.

There is a fine line between being prepared and worrying. When tragedy strikes (small or large tragedies) people typically say that they didn't see it coming. And truthfully, it doesn't make sense to worry about the worst case scenario - close family members dying, satellites falling from the sky, etc. Because the odds are that it will probably not happen (the satellites falling from the sky - close family members will die someday. It's just a matter of when).

Personally, I just can't seem to find that line. To separate the things that it's productive for me to worry about, and the things I can let go.

Does it make sense to be concerned about whether or not my kids will have a nap if we go to a family gathering on Sunday? Yes, because my kids without a nap can get angry and throw tantrums (and are just difficult to deal with. Trust me on this one).

But there are other dilemmas - whether or not some family members or friends will be at a gathering - if the friends who dislike one another will put up with each other. Will there be enough food? Will there be enough beer? Will there be food for the vegetarians?

And am I just being prepared by thinking about this beforehand, or am I worrying and possibly enabling?

What will be will be. I keep telling myself that, and sometimes I believe it.

Sometimes I actually find comfort in the prayer of serenity - God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...I find comfort in it despite the fact that I'm not sure if I believe in God or even a higher power.

Sometimes it's not a great deal of help - but at times it does remind me to separate things into what I can control and what I can't.


C. L. Hanson said...

I agree -- I think worrying is one of the many things in life that can be useful in moderation, but can be a problem if you go overboard.

I probably spend more time than I should on needless worrying, but sometimes I have problems that I can actually do something about, and a little well-placed worry can mean motiviation to do something constructive.

Anonymous said...

Check out Marsha Linehan's work on this subject. She's the person who invented Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, which is the treatment of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder. But there are some workbooks that take its basic concepts and make them useful for anyone.

Linehan has some great questions for distinguishing worry and anxiety that signals the need to do something from worry that is unproductive. For instance, she asks, is the worry about a problem I can solve? Can I solve it right now? Is this the right time to solve the problem? (For instance, if you're about to go to bed, the answer is probably no.)

For worry/anxiety over problems you can't solve or can't solve immediately, she suggests a number of other approaches. Depressed & Anxious: The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Workbook is supposed to be a good overview, though I haven't read it. Don't Let Your Emotions Run Your Life is another one, but it's aimed more at people who emotionally overreact to lots of things, not really at those who just worry.

Anonymous said...

Thanks chanson. The line is difficult to draw - I agree about well-placed worry. Because there are things that can be influenced. And many (like say, our force of nature grandparents) who cannot be.

NN - thanks for the recommendation(s). I will look into them. Surely you're not suggesting that I would over-react emotionally to anything (big :D).