What, Me Worry?


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Thought | Posted on 07-28-2015

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

What Me Worry?

© Mad Magazine

You know what’s weird? Worry.

I can’t remember even one instance where something I worried about ever actually occurred. This isn’t to say that it’s never happened, but the fact that I can’t think of any tells me that my worry has a really bad track record!

My main worries tend to be related to either health issues or general concern about family members. I’ve noticed that a lot of it is centered around times when someone is late or “missing” and I can’t seem to reach them.

Apparently, I came by this naturally.

I remember one night when I was in high school, my parents were going crazy because my older brother hadn’t come home after his job at the Drive-in. I believe they were about to call the police when he casually strolled in and explained that he went out with a few people after work and forgot to call.

Worry 0 – Wellbeing 1,999,997.

My worry stories are similar.

One of the worst I remember was 32 years ago on the evening of my wedding rehearsal. My soon to be husband was nowhere to be found after work. He was supposed to pick me up, but wasn’t on time. While I was somewhat used to him being late for things, I always assumed something bad had happened–every single time! On this particular night of course, I had even more to worry about. “He’s run away.  He never actually wanted to marry me in the first place…” When he did finally show up, it turns out he had driven someone home from work who lived a whole lot further away then he thought. Everything was fine, he wasn’t in a car accident, he wasn’t leaving me at the altar and I believe we made it to the rehearsal on time.

Worry 0 – Wellbeing 1,999,998.

Years later, raising 3 kids gave me plenty to worry about. Sickness would of course crop up, which always left me overly concerned. The worst I can remember was when my oldest daughter couldn’t shake a bad cold one winter and it was causing her asthma attacks. It seemed she couldn’t breathe at times, and I was sure she was going to die. I even remember thinking at one point when she told me about something she had planned for Spring, that it was too bad she’d never make it! When I recently told her about my crazy thoughts during that winter, she was surprised and said that her asthma was really no big deal.

Worry 0 – Wellbeing 1,999,999.

And when my other daughter (who unofficially has Aspergers) was going to college in Hawaii many years ago, I spent most days and nights worrying about her. She’s a bit of a loner and she was in the big city of Honolulu having to take public transportation and find her way around. Even though my parents lived 2 miles from where she was living, it was very worrisome for me. It didn’t help when my parents couldn’t reach her one day and sent the dorm manager into her room to check on her. Turns out she was just sleeping. She’s always slept odd hours so it shouldn’t have surprised any of us–yet we worried just the same.

Does it ever stop?

This week I found myself with similar worries about her even though she’s now 26 years old. She lives with us, but saved up and planned a trip by herself to California to attend the Vidcon Conference in Anaheim. On the one hand, I was concerned about her going by herself and getting around the area, etc., but on the other, deep inside I knew she has her own innate wisdom and is capable of doing whatever she needs to do while there. As far as I could tell, she didn’t seem to be worried about it herself. I made sure she understood how to get a taxi at the airport and gave her some other advice and sent her on her way. (Much to the chagrin of my mother who implored me to go with her!) I was a bit worried the day she flew out, but she kept in touch via texts, letting me know when she was at the airport, at the gate, on the plane, getting the taxi, at her hotel, etc. All went as it should.

I’ve continued to keep in touch via text and instant messages, and for the most part she’s been responding fairly quickly. However, when for some reason she doesn’t, dumb ole worry comes back into my head. “OMG. Where is she? Why is she not either at her computer or her phone? Someone has surely taken advantage of her or she’s wandering around crying and lost!” Until of course at some point she messages back and tells me of all the interesting places she’s been and what she’s been up to.

Worry 0 – Wellbeing 2,000,000.

Finally yesterday it hit me.

After my 2 millionth worry that had no basis in reality, I realized how dumb it was to give it my attention. With everything I’ve learned the past few years, I know that worries are just thoughts that I’ve made up. They are not true. They are meaningless in and of themselves–until I give them meaning.

Of course while I’m in the midst of worrisome thoughts (i.e., I have given them meaning) they sure feel real and seem to matter.

But they don’t.

When it occurred to me that my worried thoughts have never proven to right in the past, I realized they were highly unlikely to be right in the present or future.

And with that, I stopped worrying!

Please note this has all literally just unfolded for me. My daughter is still in CA for the rest of this week, so check back with me later to see if I’ve managed to ignore worry’s plea for attention or if it’s still trying to put some points on the board!

Addendum: It’s been a few days since I wrote this post, and with my daughter still in CA I did end up with a few more scares and stupid, irrational worrisome thoughts due to some strange circumstances that were happening. Why is it that whenever I get these thoughts I think “Well THIS time shit’s for REAL!“? Even though part of me was watching it unfold knowing it was just irrational worry, the “Yeah, but what if…?” thought owned 90% of the space in my head.

I guess the learning comes in when all’s said and done, and I can look back on what happened and see exactly how I myself created a whole story in my head about what I thought was going down, which had absolutely no basis in reality. Even though I knew that my worry is NEVER right, I still got caught up in it. My hope is that my knowing how it really works will make any future worrisome times a little bit easier to take and a little bit shorter in duration! –Jill

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Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.

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It’s incredible isn’t it! I sometimes get fooled by my worries too, but lately there are more moments when that seems ridiculous. Why would it make sense to spend time fretting over something a) that is not happening, and b) is totally made up. Sometimes it makes me laugh:) I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you xx

Thank you, Alexis. Yes, it is strange how much weight we give the almost always ridiculous voice in our heads! Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks for commenting!

Jill, I also need my kids to text at key points when they travel alone; first when they find the gate; second when they board the plane; third when they land. And if there is a connecting flight then again gate, plane and land. And of course another text when they reach their final destination. Same for driving alone, and text at the rest stops. But then when I travel alone, I add my Mom into my texts at these same points, which I send to husband, children, and of course Mom.

I think texting at key points when traveling alone has replaced the old “call me when you get home, no matter the time, just so I know you got there safely.” I don’t think this is about worry at all. I think this is about love, and is just one of the ways we communicate our love. “I love you when I ask you to text.” “I love you when I send you a text.” “I love you!”

I guess , Lisa, it may be love but for me it’s also worry as the scenarios that go through my head can only be described as coming from “Crazy Town”! I also don’t worry about my other 2 as much. Of course Corie travels all the time so it’s different with her. I traveled enough by myself also that I don’t check in with anyone either.

At any rate, I’m hoping that seeing those crazy thoughts for what they are — crazy — I’ll be more able to just ignore them.