the trouble with worry.

 

I have spent most of my life being an extraordinarily worrisome person. 

 

And by 'extraordinarily' I mean...extraordinarily. That by and large, the massive majority of my thoughts have been entirely consumed by wondering about things I couldn't control since pretty much always. This not-small habit and way of seeing the world has been the bulk of most of my character, and defined many of my adult relationships and experiences, sad as that is to admit. 

I wasn't born this way though, apparently, and only learnt or remembered how to worry when I was about eight years old.

I remember the day, and the shift in my perception that allowed me to go from a child who trusted and lived fluidly with the world to one that had planned escape routes for all the possible disasters that could occur in my home while I was in bed. 

(Aliens: slide under covers, lift sheets and blankets up to cool them so they don't know you've been there, and then wedge self between wall and chimney and practice regulated breathing until they leave.

....BUT THEN WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE ALONE AND YOUR FAMILY HAS BEEN ABDUCTED?!? So much more planning needed.

Coyote attack (during which they would storm the front door and upstairs windows, some 40 feet in the air, of course): Scramble up ladder to cubby hole above bed and detach ladder with saw (which was conveniently stored there for this reason), and if necessary to escape coyotes coming in from upper cubby hole window, saw would be used for self defense. )

And the list went on, indefinitely. Daily.  

There was a strange kind of 'comfort' in worrying, you could say, and whether it was the feeling that I was engaged in a seemingly predictive/productive activity or just being able to give my jumpy and often chaotic mind something to focus on, it became my favorite pastime. It ruined relationships (there's only so many times you can accuse a boyfriend of cheating on you before they leave, or go do exactly what you have predicted), damaged my health to a great degree (nothing like chronic worry to banish any hope of sleep and/or stress relief, and nothing like a little bit or a lot of alcohol to temporarily banish chronic worry) and detached me from any direct experience of my education, employment or relationship to the natural world as I was consumed instead by worries of failure, future prospects, or getting eaten by bears. 

On a very logical and conscious level I sometimes knew and could acknowledge that worry was useless, and yet I still found ways of justifying the practice so that I could continue: 

1. It was all in the name of necessary preparation. 

2. It was only logical, and everyone else just wasn't going to be prepared as I was when things went south. 

3. It was how intelligent people made their life work, by worrying about and then controlling everything. 

 

It was nuts, and exhausting, and very much the source of a couple of huge, life-changing breakdowns that happened to force me off that path. 

I have a very different relationship with worry now, thankfully--after years of meditation, shamanic healing, philosophy, personal explorations and the magical process of having shit go wrong and then realizing you were never prepared at all with all that 'preventative' fumbling and neurotic rambling..--and I can't imagine ever going back. No longer are my nights spent ruminating over the likelihood of me developing cancer (at age 9) or the possibility of having a brain aneurism (at age 11) or not 'making something of myself in life' (like, all the time). 

And what has replaced the worry? Well, in a word, faith.  

Faith is what I had been missing all this time, and what--in reemergence within my experience--has brought my mind back to a place of being able to consider and take responsibility for what I can, and then releasing the rest to happen as it will. 

Granted it has taken a long time to get to the place where I know the division and appropriate separation of those two things--what can be controlled and what must be released--and I think in some ways I am still very much working on recognizing those boundaries in certain areas, but with the reengagement of trust and faith I can see that there is something bigger than me at work in my life and the processes within in, and my feeble attempt to control the outcomes results in nothing short of disastrous results both in the immediate and long term, greatly lessening my potential for present moment happiness while also, rather miraculously, creating the very things I fear in the future. 

Our over-association with the mind--one of the great ills of the modern human, as I see it--causes us to think that we know more than we do, and that we are somehow more powerful than we are in the processes that occur in life. This belief creates detachment from the possibility of experiencing life as it happens, which in turn detaches us from the entire phenomenal world around us. Sitting in our little worried castle it is quite possible to convince ourselves that we are protected from the bad things and people that might come our way, but A) this is not true, shit is still going to go wrong, and B) not only do we get protected from the bad things, but we lose all contact with the joy, the wildness and the spontaneity of a whole life experience. 

Faith is the opposite of fear, and fear is the root of worry. It is not a fast nor easy process to weed out the worrisome thoughts in the brain and allow ourselves to shift out of old patterns to truly walk in the sunshine, but the rewards are as simple as being offered our lives back to us, free from the tyranny of that crazy, worrisome and separate self. 

I was told years ago that I was a tree in my last lifetime (and have been told this several times after), and that when I was born I still remembered what it was to be a tree and live in connection to the entire world with no fear and no separation. Around the age of eight was when I 'woke up' to being human, and became consumed by the possibilities of a conscious mind that could separate and worry. It has taken me a couple decades to get back to this place, but it's nice to be back home. 

I know that all of us have the possibility of 'returning home' and becoming part of the family of the universe once again, remembering our place within all that exists, and living from a faith-based perspective that allows us to use our beautiful minds for creativity, love and connection instead of worry and hate and all the rest, as we so often do.