The Worry Factory

Worry. It’s something I worry about. If it were an Olympic event, I’m certain I’d place in the top ten, possibly medal. I only say this because I come from a long line of champion worriers, but would not be so arrogant to think I was the best. It’d be sheer hubris to assume I’d be the one on top of the podium. Even if I were, I’d never claim the title for fear of offending other world-class worriers. You see, that’s how great a worrier I am. I even worry about ridiculous makebelieve situations.

My most common worries all land in the motherhood category. I once thought these would taper off with time, but then realized, nope, it’s just a worry-muscle I’ve strengthened with use. Then, there are health worries, from the trivial “am I getting a cold?” to the catastrophic “cancer?” While I can easily worry about the weather, what’s for dinner, and how big my keister looks in Levi’s, I’m also good at worrying about world peace, presidential tweets, and gun legislation. And absurdly, I’ve worried about whether I’ll have teeth when I’m older, if I’m using too much cream in my coffee, and who will win Survivor. It’s a runaway train of worry, folks, where any ol’ thought can instantaneously be shaped into a worry, like my mind is a Play-Doh Fun Factory without the fun. Worry should be a unit of measure, a specific weight. Like each single worry is a pound of woe, a woepound, let’s say. Maybe if we thought about it that way, we’d be as conscious about the pounds of woe we carry as the pounds we measure on the scale. Perhaps woe-pounds are more devious and wily though, because they’re invisible. I can walk out of my house looking fine, but what you can’t see is the cargo of worry strapped to my back, with, I’m pretty sure, extra on top of my head. Besides weighing me down, impeding my progress, and overall dampening my day, it’s not a good look. And though woe-pounds are invisible, they seep out and reveal themselves through a furrowed brow, stooped shoulders, and a smile turned upside down. In fact, there might be a case made for less plastic surgery in this country, if instead of a facelift, we did a worry-ectomy, releasing all that weighty anguish from our visage.

I don’t know about you, but for me, worry accumulates at a rate of speed a NASCAR driver would envy. I can easily accumulate 50 woepounds in ten minutes. And those 50 just sit merrily on top of the other 1,000 I’m carrying. It’s a regular bounty of anxiety I bear every day.

In order to truly relax and enjoy this life I’ve been given, I’ve decided to shed some woepounds, many that have been there my whole life, like worrying I’m not enough or not safe. I really don’t need those anymore. Also, I’m actually practicing not worrying. Instead of habitually going to that deep groove of worry I’m accustomed to, I choose something else, because even Dr. Phil said, you can’t stop doing a thing, you have to replace it. He also said something about rodeos and pancakes having two sides, but that’s for another day.

In place of worry, my “something else” to practice is gratitude. I just pivot the “oh my God, I’m so worried” to an “oh my God, I’m so grateful.” It’s not hard to do. It’s just hard to remember to do, considering we’ve been worrying since the cave-women days, and I’m not talking Wilma Flintstone here. I’m talking about reasonable anxiety, like whether a saber-tooth tiger will eat you while you’re going to the bathroom behind a boulder. It’s no wonder we worry, it’s in our DNA. It’s not wrong; it’s just not helpful.

I can report with confidence this method of letting go and cultivating appreciation has lost me more woe-pounds than any other diet. Plus, in this crazy world of unknowns and fragility, it gives me something to do every day.