I worry about you.

September 8, 2013 § 8 Comments

Falling elephant.I come from a family of inveterate worriers.

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.

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§ 8 Responses to I worry about you.

  • craig reeder says:

    so relieved that I will not have to worry today about the elephant falling from the sky. thanks sincerely for that! and thanks also for the beautiful quote about letting the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. that is profound.


  • Genia says:

    I hear you, Adrian. Believe it or not, I use to be a far worse worrier. Wes always said I couldn’t help it. I was bred from the champion. Finally, one day, the Lord showed me He was truly in control. I had worried about Wes having a heart attack for the first 20 years of our marriage. He was a smoker, and his father died of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 42. So early one Saturday morning at around 5:30, when I heard him hit the floor in the kitchen with a loud cry, I knew it was the moment I had worried about for so long. I immediately called 911. I was prepared. The EMT’s showed up and I proceeded to give them the diagnosis. “He’s had a heart attack.” After doing the ekg, they said, “Mam, his heart seems fine.” Convinced they were wrong, I rode in the rescue truck to the ER still making my case for the heart attack. After all the tests were run, the doctor entered the room. Wes was conscious and ready to go home. “O.K., give it to us, I thought. Bypass, triple bypass, a stent, tell us what he needs.” When the doctor bent down and told him a brain tumor was responsible for the seizure he had had, I almost tumbled to the floor. The man never even had a headache. Go figure! Thankfully, even though it was the size of a man’s fist, it was not malignant. And, they got it all.
    Lesson learned. Let go. In my wildest worries, I would have not thought of that one.


    • Yes, Genia, something gets every last one of us– and it is rarely the thing we fear. But I n a strange, backwards way, worrying empowers me. It gives me a sense that I have put my shoulder to the wheel and am pushing.

      Who was the champion worrier you learned from? I cited my grandfather, but my mother was my biggest teacher.


      • Genia says:

        My mother was my biggest teacher, too. She worried because she didn’t have anything to worry about. Luckily, something was always just around the corner, so she never had to worry about that one for long.


  • Liz Jameson says:

    I come from a long line of worriers! My mother never gave me permission to ride my bike in the street…not even when she was 80 and I was 40! At a two-year-old’s birthday party yesterday, I could hardly eat my salad, as I kept a close eye on the birthday girl eating a coin-sliced hot dog! So…I will give my worrying over to you to handle. Much appreciated! (And I will email an article on top choking hazards to the parents…just in case that elephant veers off course and heads for them..)


  • Sheila Merlau says:

    I have tried, and usually succeeded, in visualizing literally putting my worry at the foot of the cross. It gives me great comfort, but often, before I know it, I’ve snatched it back! I believe we’re supposed to celebrate the moment and not waste our infinite brain space on worry.
    Easily said.
    I found the courage to leave my career, by posting a quote I read: “God did not intend for us to lead stress-filled lives.” I know your message is a humorous look at worry, & I’m not being clever, but I felt the need to share.


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