I worry about you.
September 8, 2013 § 8 Comments
If worrying were a profession we would be at the top of the game.
I know, worrying has a bad reputation.
I am here to speak about its positive side.
What is worrying anyway?
Viewed correctly, worrying is an emotionally charged form of planning. Worry scans the horizon of upcoming events and follows the paths of multiple possible outcomes.
My grandfather, Nonno, rehearsed potentially difficult encounters taking both sides of the conversation. “I will say…then he will say…then I will say…” until he had worked himself into a froth over the nerve of the other guy, talking to him like that!
When the actual encounter happened it usually went askew after the first “I will say…” but Nonno was almost always pleasantly surprised. The guy was so much more reasonable than he had anticipated. His rehearsal made a not-so-great encounter seem surprisingly genial.
And then there is the preventive value of worry. The universe is a prankster. It will rarely hit you with the disaster you have imagined. It uses sleight of hand to distract you, setting you up to walk smack into the wall or step on the banana peel.
The skilled worrier thwarts the universe by imagining all possible disasters.
I recently taught a novel-writing workshop. I preemptively worried about all (or what I thought was all) that could go wrong. Too few students: I put out emails and waved my arms. It is really hard to teach someone how to write a novel: I prepared like the dickens. I had to fill four hours with content five times: I prepared like two dickenses.
Class one was on the Friday after the Fourth of July and I arrived at the restaurant where the class was going to take place. The door was locked. They’d closed for the long weekend.
But, but, but! I had the email that agreed to all the dates of the class!
Gotcha! said the universe.
I had to take some of the blame. My preemptive worrying had not included: locked door. I will be more thorough next time.
I know there is evidence that worry is not good for one’s health, but since I have imagined all the possible health consequences I feel sure I will be taken out in some other manner, such as, but not including (since I’ve thought about it) an airlifted elephant dropping from the sky or an extreme toaster oven malfunction.
The bible has this to say about worrying:
Do not be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.
This advice has the ring of truth, but having been raised in the tradition of worrying I don’t think I can follow it.
There is one other aspect of worry of which the bible would approve (the New Testament anyway).
Worrying, when it is done on behalf of someone else, is an act of love. It is my attempt to ward off all the things that could harm you–and I am worried about you.
Knowing that I am worried about you, you are free to go about your life.
I have you covered—the elephant falling from the sky may come close, but it won’t flatten you today.