Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Worry, worry, worry

"Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy." Leo F. Buscaglia

In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I woke, anxiety-ridden, and lay in bed detailing to myself my worries. I was worried about the fact that I needed to get to church early to prepare for a small presentation I was giving, and I was worried that I would forget the materials I needed for the presentation (the written text I planned to read, plus my laptop to take notes during the discussion that would follow). I was worried it would be too hard to get up on time due to the hour of sleep lost to daylight savings. I was worried about the forecasted rain and whether we’d have problems with flooding. I was worried about how I would fit in my imperative daily run if the flooding was bad, and I was worried that the forecasted high winds would cause a tree to fall on me while I ran.

As I slept, I could hear the wind and rain; I woke worrying about how my mother’s flight home from London was going to be able to land the following night in such bad weather. I was worried that my daughter would dawdle throughout the morning and be late getting to her friend’s birthday party, and probably arrive in a cranky mood for having been rushed.
When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” Winston Churchill

And then Monday I woke even earlier with even more worries. This despite the fact that as far as I knew, everything I had worried about before dawn on Sunday had worked out. I’d arrived at church on time and the presentation had gone great, as had the discussion afterwards. Holly had been good about getting ready for the party and had enjoyed it greatly once she was there. I’d fit in my run before the heavy rains started, and the forecasted heavy winds never arrived. When I’d gone to bed on Sunday night, my mother’s flight was still scheduled for an on-time arrival, though I didn’t know for sure that she’d landed.

Still, it seemed that by 4:40 AM on Monday, I had a whole new set of worries waking me. The flooding had indeed begun as predicted on Sunday, and our driveway was starting to wash out. I wasn’t sure how I’d get the kids to the bus stop if it was impassable by daybreak. I was afraid when daylight came I’d discover that the whole farm was under water. I didn’t know how I’d feed the cows if the barnyard was flooded; I wasn’t even sure the sheep would survive a flood. I worried and worried and worried.
Worry is like a rocking chair--it gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere.” Unknown

Meditation and other prescribed mind-calming measures don’t work for me at times like this. Instead, I arose from bed even though it was an hour earlier than I usually get up and tried to write out possible solutions to everything that was concerning me. Our house is built on a slab; even if the fields were flooded, the area around the house always stays dry, and I knew I didn’t really have to worry about that from the perspective of flooding. The woman who owns the sheep had been here the evening before; surely she had taken some kind of precautions if she thought they might be in danger. Getting the kids out to the road if we couldn’t get through in the car would just require leaving a lot of extra time, and if Holly balked too severely at walking in the flooded driveway, I could pull her in the wagon. My father, who’s the real farmer here – I just help with morning feedings – would surely know what to do if the barnyard was flooded. And there was no point, two hours before sunrise, in worrying about what I would see when the sun came up. I wrote all of this out and tried to let it go. I reminded myself that most of the time, getting up early is one of the best ways to counter worry: there’s quite a lot you can fix or prevent simply by having extra time to deal with it.
There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever” Mahatma Gandhi

And most of it turned out all right, except that when daylight broke I discovered the barnyard situation was even worse than I imagined: the entire pasture west of our driveway was under a foot of water. Rick headed out to work and called me to say the driveway had indeed washed away during the night and I shouldn’t even try to get the kids to school; it just wasn’t safe. So there went that worry. I called my father to express my concerns about feeding the animals, and he said he’d take care of it. One less burden on my shoulders. I saw for myself that the house and the land around it were still dry and not in any threat from the continuing rainfall at all.

I tried again to tell myself how unproductive worry is. My mom called a little later in the morning and said she’d safely arrived home from London and that dad had managed with the animals and they were all safe and well, even the sheep. Things were turning out okay.

Worry is such a bad use of time. Listing your problems and figuring out how to cope with them is such a better idea. Getting up early to solve things is often the best strategy of all. Simple guidelines to remember at fretful times like this. It’s not always that easy. But it’s a start.
Worry is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” Arthur Somers Roche

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