Whaddya do? I mean, as a mom, it’s truly unending, all the opportunities for worry. Measles, mumps, money, nutrition, a sudden, inexplicable refusal to eat anything white. Or anything that has touched anything white. Bullies, braces, the lack of any musical talent whatsoever accompanied by great, unflagging interest in playing an instrument. A lack of friends. Too many friends. No interests. Too many activities. Growing up too fast. Growing too slow. A sudden withdrawal. A sudden appearance. Too much energy. A lack of energy.
And writing worries. “I lost it.” “The Muse is gone, and she’s never coming back.” “Do I actually know how to write? Does this count as a sentence?” “Should I switch POV here? Should I base it on who as more to lose? Or to gain? Or who is wearing the fewest clothes?” Or, you know, whatever.
How do you make worry constructive? Or at least, do something constructive with it?
This past week, my little guy was very sick. For 3 days, he ran a temperature of 103 – 104+ degrees, and at times, his little head was so sweaty he looked like he’d dunked his head in the sink.
As far as fevers, I’m a pretty laid back mom. I don’t run for Tylenol, even if it’s up to 103.7 or more. But you get into the 104 range, and it keeps on for days, and well, you know, you start to worry. When the fever shoots back up fifteen minutes after the medicine wears off. When it goes on, and on, and it’s Thanksgiving weekend, so the only medical option is the ER or–gasp–the internet. Bacterial meningitis. Polio. That’s what this means, right?
OH-kay, no more internet.
And writing worries, they’ve been rearing their heads recently as well. Nothing seems to be releasing my fiery, passionate Muse. I suppose that’s because she isn’t chained inside of me. She is either stubborn or out Christmas shopping or perhaps deep-sea diving, doing whatever Muse-y thing she wants to do, and wherever she is, I can’t force her to work. Which means, of course, that I’ll be doomed to 20 years of sitting in a chair developing carpal tunnel and writing cr*p. Right? That’s what it means, right?
The most important thing I’ve realized about worry:
- 80-95% of the time, the biggest misery of the worry is not the problem happening in the moment I’m living, it’s me extrapolating into the future. It’s me saying, at some level, “And it will always be this way.” I can certainly be without the Muse right now. As far the tension that produces, it’s not a big deal. The problem comes the moment I start thinking, “And it will always be this way.”
A second important thing I’ve noticed about worry:
- If I’m not thinking about it, I’m not worrying about it. Translated, that means: Move my mind to something else. Move my body to some activity. Super simple, this basic mindfulness strategy is super powerful.
And a third important truth I’ve noted about worry:
- Terrible worries are no more likely just because they’re really awful. Big feelings do NOT equal truth or increased likelihood of those terrible things happening. I am no more likely to clean the bathroom just because I’m worried about needing to clean the bathroom. You see how that works?
A fourth thing I’ve noticed about worry:
- Usually, things turn out okay.
Think of how often you worried about something and it turned out to be nothing. Or not as bad as you worried. Just about every single time. The fever passed. The Muse returned. Hope goes a long way. As does persistence.
But perhaps the most important thing I’ve realized about worry:
- It’s usually got a component of me thinking I can’t handle the issue. That I haven’t got what it takes. Which is ridiculous, of course. I think of all the stuff I have handled. I can handle this one too.
You can actually experience the different power of these 2 ways of thinking in a physical way, very simply. Say these 2 phrases out loud, and you’ll actually feel it. You don’t even have to have some problem or worry in mind–in fact, don’t hold anything in your mind. Just speak the phrases out loud:
“I can’t handle this. I can’t do it.”
And then say: “I can do this. I can do it.”
Feel the difference?
Because then the question becomes, how do you want to write today? How do you want to parent today? As an “I can’t handle this” writer? Or as a “I can do this!” mom? Which feel like it contains more power?
Words matter. We’re writers; no one should know that better than we.
In the end, I find that if I keep 1) being the very, very best person I can be in that moment (i.e. the one I’d want videotaped), and 2) if I do what my gut says is right, no matter how worried I am, I end up being okay. And so does everyone else.
In fact, for most ‘worries,’ I’m starting to think I should stop calling it Worry and call it Self-Doubt. And then, well, the answer is super simple. I know just what to do.
What about you? What do you worry about? What do you not worry about (any more)? How do you rise above?