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What … Me, Worry?

"Does it really worry you, or do you feel obligated to worry?" Cate asks. Because she asks excellent questions that make me stomp and huff around in my mind, kicking the furniture and waving my arms, until I can answer them.

"Worrying" is a ridiculous waste of energy and I try not to engage in it actively. I've seen so many people work themselves into absolute frenzies about things they can't control and I just can't go there. When I "worry", I am usually wondering if I've "done the right thing" or if I'm prepared enough for something, or if I've forgotten to turn the stove off or unplug the iron. Actually, I iron so infrequently that this worry almost never happens. Except, on the rare occasion that I am forced to iron, I almost always obsess over whether I've unplugged it. Usually, I'm about 50 miles away from my place when this worry hits me.  After starting out on a road trip, I've been known to call my next door neighbours about an hour into the journey, to ask them to check whether I've turned the taps off in my upstairs bathroom. They are patient with me, as I am with them when they call me out of the blue, delayed by some circumstance, and ask me to feed their cat. It is a symbiotic thing.

This isn't the kind of worrying that Cate and I were discussing this morning, though. Off the top of my head, here are some people I *could* be worrying about, if I chose to:

  • my perspicacious friend who announces she is going to Uganda, land of ebola and rather unfriendly ambushes
  • my ex who is cheerfully placing herself squarely in the path of oncoming hurricanes, for two weeks in October, staying in a house on stilts for chrissakes, because she is head over heels for someone in Texas
  • another ex whose job it is to attend various war-torn parts of the world to tend to the psychological and structural needs of "displaced" children. I have promised to help her pluck shrapnel out of her butt someday, if needed.
  • another ex who has just "upped sticks" (moved her entire life) from Texas to Omaha, with great bravery and skill, to take on the next challenge in her career
  • the multi-faceted and ever intriguing ecologist who is happily stretching her limits somewhere out in the middle of the Indian Ocean – land of god knows what … 
  • my dear friend who is boldly preparing for a life-altering surgical procedure
  • a new friend who is extricating herself from a complex marital situation
  • my multitude of friends who have, it seems over the last six months, jumped ship from various and sundry short- and long-term relationships and are now in various stages of re-grouping and re-emerging into the world

Do I actively worry about these people? Honestly … no. They are all adults, grown-ups, accomplished and clear-headed. They certainly don't *need* me to worry about them.

Do I circle through the rolodex in my mind and wonder how these people – and others – are doing? Yes, of course. Do I get a tiny knot in my stomach, from time to time, wondering if I'll get to hear about their journeys over beer someday, or will they fall off a mountain, or into the ocean, or into some legal morass and disappear from view? Yes, I admit that sometimes I do get that momentary knot.  I don't think this translates into full-blown "worry", though. Do I curl up in a fetal position of anxiety on their behalf? Gawd, no.

I think it is about connection. My clucking and fidgeting is my knee-jerk way of saying "I'm connected to you, dammit, now don't go and get yerself kilt".  That's all. It passes.

I worried quite a lot about my mother, especially in the last few years before she died. My fussing, fidgeting and nagging had very little impact, and her death was sudden and (almost) unavoidable. Worrying, or not worrying – either state had no impact whatsoever. As it happens, this event has been a supreme test of my belief system, of my views on death and consciousness and spirituality. I feel light-years away from defining or articulating what my belief system actually is, but what I do know for certain is that I still feel very connected to this woman who gave birth to me on so many levels. I don't really know how to explain this, but when I think of her I feel peaceful and grounded. Somehow, this outcome causes me to be much less worried about the people I'm connected to now. Much more able to "let go" than perhaps I once was. Perhaps, on some level, I feel that if the connection is really there, there isn't much that can happen to sever it. In some brave cases, I've even learned to trust at some gut level this immutable thing we call connection, for lack of more clear terminology. If it is there, it is just there. No amount of worrying, or absence thereof, will change that.

But you will grant me, please, my occasional knee jerk fussing. It is just what I do. It too shall pass. 🙂

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2 comments to “What … Me, Worry?”

  1. Great post… my sister and I were just talking about this worrying thing today, when we realized our lanky and laconic cousin is going back to afghanistan in three weeks. He works for an aid agency, not the military, but the lines are pretty blurred. What, we wondered, is the place where you would decide "it's TOO risky?" There's a difference between risk and recklessness, I guess, and risk is something that has a tradeoff.

  2. Thank you, dear friend.

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