I am so good at worrying. So very good. My kind of worrying does not look like twisting my hair or biting my nails, it looks like THINKING HARD and MAKING PLANS.
What will I do if this doesn’t work? What will I do if someone gets hurt? What will I do if this ends badly? What will I do if they don’t understand? What will I do if this is scary? What will I do if there’s no parking—or worse, only parallel parking?
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If I can think of every possible future scenario and make a plan for each and every one, then nothing will be uncertain.
I will be ready for anything.
No surprises! No fear.
It’s a lot of work, though. I feel like I ought to get credit for it somehow.
Maybe if I hit a certain quantity of worry, or maybe if I worry thoroughly enough—maybe that could change the trajectory of the universe just a touch? This feels reasonable to me.
I’ve tried arguing this point, but God does not seem interested in my input. Or at least, I have still not been put in charge of the world. I am in charge of very little, actually.
Basically I am just in charge of whether or not I worry.
But worry feels necessary. It’s like saying: I AM PAYING ATTENTION. I see everything that could go wrong in this situation. I am here, and I am noticing all the things. (It is maybe also sending a message to the universe: No need to try to surprise me with trouble! I already see it, thank you very much.)
And at the same time, worry is always pushing you to spin your wheels faster, because there’s always more to avoid.
I was thinking about this when I read Erin Loechner’s new book. At one point, the way she was working wasn’t working for her anymore, and she was ready to let go of a project that had gotten out of hand.
“Can we live without it?” she asked her husband in Chasing Slow.
He answered, “Can we live with it?”
They let it go. No more spinning their wheels faster. No more can’t-live-with-it, can’t-live-without-it.
Another thing Erin writes: “To surrender is to be strong. It is to accept the tension for what it is.”
Is it possible that worry is the opposite of that strength?
What if worry means refusing to surrender to what is? What if worry is just another way of opting out of the present to swim around in the waters of what-could-be? And what if it’s not swimming at all—what if we’re drowning?
Can we live without it? Can we live WITH it?
Worry is so much work, but it is not, I think, making us strong. I think it is making us distracted.
Strong is surrendering to what is. Strong is seeing the true things and sitting with them.
Strong is acting on the true things, too—not just seeing them—but if you’re going to act on the true things, you have to know which ones are true and which ones are imagined possibilities.
A short list of true things:
- There are twenty-four hours in this day, no matter how many things I think need to get done.
- Humans need to sleep, even if there is more to do. (There is always more to do.)
- Even if I make a lot of plans, I do not get to know what will happen next week, or next year, or even five minutes from now.
- I am a person who does much not care for uncertainty.
- Worry does not make the uncertain more certain, it only feels that way.
- The only thing that is certain is what is happening now. This is happening for sure. Everything else is a could-happen-but-isn’t-happening-now.
- So if you don’t like uncertainty, being here now is the best place to be.
The best response to the true things is just surrender.
The best response to the true things, the only response, starts with surrender. Surrender to who you are and who you were made to be. Surrender to what is. Surrender to the truth, because the truth will set you free.
Not try to guess what’s coming and avoid all potential parking dilemmas.
Not worry and then worry some more.
Erin’s publisher sent me an advance copy of Chasing Slow to read. All words, opinions, and worries in this post are, of course, my own.