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Nasty, little five-letter words: Worry

Worry

It is nearly comical that worry is my next post.  I started to write it weeks ago, right after finishing the first post on nasty little five-letter words.  It just wasn’t gelling.  So I put it down for a while, and shortly thereafter proceeded to worry.   The irony was that it took me a few weeks to notice what I was doing.  And then, because I’m human just like everyone else, it took some more time to stop.

What is worry?  Why do we do it?  What does it gain us?

In reverse order:
Nothing.
Because our mind needs something to chew on.
Worry is concern about something that is not real.

Worry is what we do about an imagined future, or an imagined past.  Our brains have evolved to remember the past so that we prepare for the future.  We prepare by using our imagination, combined with our memory; we analyze our past, sometimes in immense detail, and use that to imagine possible futures and how we might act in them.  This is great; there is nothing wrong with this.  It is one way that we learn and it certainly helps us advance as individuals and cultures.

But the mind likes itself an awful lot.  That saying, “If you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile” – well, that’s the mind.  Because we start this process of remembering and imagining at such an early age, by the time we are old enough to be capable of understanding what the mind is doing, it is simply what the mind has always done.  Worry seems natural.  We worry about whether we, or our children, are going to do well in school.  We (well, today, I) worry about if I’m going to be able to pay my bills this month, and next month, and the month after.  We worry about what people will think of us.  We worry about nearly everything.  And what does all this worry get us?  I said, Nothing, but I think I am wrong.  Personally, it gets me tired.  Tired is worse than nothing.  It saps my energy and leaves me in a place where I don’t really feel like doing anything.

All of my examples are valid concerns to have.  But concern is anchored in the present.  Concern is anchored in doing.  I’m concerned about doing well in school?  I make some time to study.  I’m worried about doing well in school?  I’m spending my time not focused on the actions I can take to ensure I do well in school.  Concern is also anchored in acceptance.  I’m worried about not doing well in school?  I do what I think well make me do well, and then I let it go.  I accept whatever comes.  This is especially true when we have concern for others.  So if it’s my child I’m concerned about, I do my best to create an environment where my child can do well, but then I have to let him do what he’s going to do, and be ready to accept whatever he does or doesn’t do.

It sounds simple.  Unfortunately, simple and easy rarely overlap.   And knowing isn’t doing.

And so, several weeks ago, after giving up on writing this post for the time being, I started to worry about money.  If you don’t know how deep this money thing runs for me, read some of my other posts and come back.  The short version is, my need to feel financially secure runs all the way to the core of me and has driven many, if not all, of my life decisions. Until this past summer.

I’m not sure what got me started on the worry track – a classroom conversation about income, a realization of what my body will take when I get started, a realization that as a self-proclaimed anti-salesperson building a clientele is going to be ridiculously hard for me.  Something.

I can tell you what got me out of it, though.  Ego and Trust.  Yes, I did just say Ego.

I received a phone call from someone I had worked with very briefly, asking me if I would be interested in consulting work.  I reacted with excitement and interest – not only was it promising, it was flattering.  It’s nice to be desired.  While my ego was saying “Whoohoo, I’m special!” my body was saying “NOOOOOOOOOO!”  After a few hours, I noticed that I was stressed out, my body was tense and my mind, even, was flustered.  That’s because the mind runs out of the brain, which is an organ that responds to adrenaline just like any other organ.

So on my drive to class that night, I threw another proclamation at the universe (I know, I know, when will I learn to stop doing that, right?) : “Alright, I’ll say no, but you have to make me feel financially secure in my new path!”  And immediately, I felt better.  The stress evaporated from my body.  My mind stopped racing.  My shoulders relaxed down my back in the car and I realized how tense I had been in my seat.

My ego pulled me far enough away from center, that I could not ignore/repress/deny how wrong it felt to me to choose an action out of alignment with what I want my future to be.

And like Buddha being tempted under the Bodhi tree by the demon Mara, I had two more requests for my IT skills in the next week.  Oh, how my ego wanted to puff its feathers, and preen.  And pull me back in that direction.  But the memory of the physical relief that I felt when I decided to say no kept me on course.

Somehow, that decision and that proclamation has engendered a sense of trust in the universe that I will have enough, going forward.  I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it, but I’m grateful for it.  Of course, it could all go horribly wrong.  But I’m not worrying about it anymore.  I’m doing what I can in the present, and that is enough.

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