I can imagine a thousand things. My worst nightmares coming true. A scarier outcome than is even possible. I can go night after night without sleep counting the minutes while fretting about everything under the sun. And all of this amounts to nothing. But worry has been my companion for more years than I can count.
I come by it honestly. My mother’s worrying is crippling to her--inhibiting her life in ways I don’t even think she understands. It was by watching her that I was able to scale back my habits a great deal. I saw her day after day getting further weighed down by stressing, thinking, and fretting over things that were either out of her control, or too miniscule to really be a concern. It seemed as if she got smaller every day, swallowed up by the cloud of worry. It made her timid to try new things, to go places, to do things she had always wanted to do. It seemed better to stay safe at home and not risk harm or making mistakes.
Until I was in high school, that was pretty much me, too. I limited myself to things I knew and trusted—never venturing more than a few feet out of my comfort zone. And then I realized I was still worrying incessantly. Even in my supposed “safe zone”, I was losing sleep and having panic attacks. I saw the fruits of my mother’s constant state of anxiety. Miraculously, I was able to reign in some of the intensity, and somehow choose my battles with worry.
It’s almost funny that the more I have had on me—the less I started to worry. In college I was working three jobs, trying to come to terms with the reality of my family problems, becoming the navigator of my own journey—all of it overwhelming. I believe it was definitely a choice of sink or swim. And to even tread water, I had to realize that staying up all night worrying wasn’t going to put money in the bank to pay my power bill. I remember so often saying to myself, “you are doing the best you can, that is all you can do.” It might not have helped my finances or my understanding of my family, but it helped keep me a little closer to sanity, and gave me a few more hours of sleep each night.
But, even at my best, I am a bigger worrier than most and I hate the lessons worry teaches me.
I have learned from worry that nine times out of ten, doing what you love-even what you are meant to do- isn’t going to pay the bills. I know some have made it happen, but for me that hasn’t quite worked out. I have also learned that the financial worry of pursuing those dreams can take away from what you wanted in the first place. That doesn’t mean my dreams are dying, it just means I am realizing they may have to always be an after-hours pursuit instead of the main game.
I have also learned that there is no worry worse than financial worry. From my own experience and my friends' experiences as we have all been affected by the economy, it is the worst form of stress. In so many ways you are helpless, and the ride downhill only accelerates with each passing day.
Over the last few weeks, I have realized that I have let my stress and worry creep in to my happiness. Right now, I do have a lot to be happy about, in more than one area, my life is good—actually great. All of the rest of it will work out I am sure. But I noticed that I haven’t been able to write—it almost felt like a betrayal to let myself write instead of concentrating on my “bigger” concerns. It hit me today that the only way I can steer through everything with my soul intact is to keep doing the things I love--that are me. In fact, I may need to drown myself a little in the things that make me who I am. Better to drown there than the deep dark sea of apprehension.
At the end of all of this, when the dust finally settles and I have somehow solved the problems lurking around the corner, I will have the words I have written, the moments I have created and will, as always, look back and realize that was what got me through.
That is all I can do.