I’ve always been a worrier. I’ve tried hard not to be, but my success has been marginal, to say the least. For some reason, I can easily imagine a myriad of things that can go wrong in just about any given situation, and I tend to think about those possible negative outcomes a bit more than I should. I honestly think I was just born this way.
The good news is the older I get, the more accepting I have become of my true nature. So instead of trying to worry less, I try to remember that just because I’m worried that something will go wrong doesn’t mean it actually will go wrong. I think when we can’t actually change a part of our character, the best thing to do is simply adapt to it. Yes, I worry. But no, that doesn’t necessarily mean bad things are coming. When I can remember that, I do so much better, because then I don’t let my habit of worrying about something morph into actual fear.
There are still times (thankfully rare) when I let my worry get out of control and cross the line into fearful thinking. Recently, my husband had a follow up visit with his surgeon to discuss some lingering side effects from his cancer surgery. There was no real reason for alarm, but in the days leading up to his appointment I found myself seriously afraid that we were going to get bad news. I was living in dread and fear, unable to fully engage with others or simply enjoy myself. I knew I was overreacting, but I couldn’t calm down or think rationally about the situation.
Luckily, his visit with the surgeon showed that everything is, indeed, just fine and all my worry was for nothing. I’m both grateful and relieved. But when I look back over the past couple of weeks, I’m struck by just how much I missed out on by being so afraid. The truth is, you can’t truly live your life when you’re afraid. The best you can do is endure.
I think there is a lesson for all of us in this, because when I look around, I realize that I’m not the only one who’s struggling with excessive fear these days. We’re afraid of escalating war, climate change, and increasing crime, etc. In my country, both conservatives and liberals are afraid the other side is out to destroy our democracy and take away our basic freedoms. Fear is all around us, encouraged by the news and politicians, and the results aren’t pretty.
Of course our country and our planet are facing some very real problems that require solutions. But I believe solutions are never found when we’re living in fear. Solutions require ingenuity, hope, compassion and most of all, working together with people we don’t always agree with. I think it’s natural to worry about our problems and to seek answers. The trick is to not let our worry morph into a paralyzing, and ultimately destructive, fear. Because a life lived in fear isn’t good for anybody, ever. Trust me on this……