Thursday, June 07, 2007

Worst Case

I have often said that one of the nice things about being single is that you have the chance to identify and work on some of your major flaws before subjecting a spouse to their full force.

Ever since I was a tiny girl, I have been an Olympic Gold Medal worrier. I worried about earthquakes and house fires, my dad being on airplanes, salamanders in the swimming pool, being obedient enough, big black dogs, walking to school alone, being left out at recess, my grades, what other kids thought of me, pleasing teachers, if I would ever be able to live in an apartment by myself and not be scared at night, how I would tell a boy I had to ask my mom first when he asked if I would marry him. I can remember laying in bed on night in high school, staring at the ceiling and worrying that I only had time to take the ACT's once and if I didn't get a good enough score then for sure I wouldn't get into college and I'd have to work at Deseret Book for the rest of my life. I worried about it so long, and it got so late, that then I worried for a bit about how early I had to get up and how much time I had wasted thinking about the ACT's.

So here I am, fifteen years later and I still lie in bed and stare at the ceiling and invent things to worry about. Losing my job, the altitude of the Wasatch Back, accidentally missing a credit card payment, my car getting stolen, missing a huge work deadline, leaving my cell phone somewhere (I panic about this at least once a day). I am so good at this that sometimes I can worry about two opposite things at once. Like sitting in my mom's ward in Utah last month and freaking out that all the girls there were my age and had three or four kids and I have zero kids and none on the horizon but also very concerned that I definitely didn't want to trade lives with any of them either.

Chronic worrying is exhausting enough when it's just me but I imagine it could be doubly annoying to someone who doesn't have the benefit of knowing how my brain arrived at these ridiculous concerns. And I also imagine that becoming a parent will open the door to hundreds of thousands of new things to worry about. From what might the baby choke on to why isn't the teenager in by midnight to what if I don't do a good job of teaching them to be productive members of society?

I have a worrier mother, and some worrier siblings so I think some of this is hereditary. It might be impossible for me to stop completely. And some of my worrying really does motivate me to work hard and feel love and concern for the people around me so I certainly don't want to lose that. But I have set a goal to slow down the useless worry. I'm starting out small, trying to get my nighttime ceiling staring under control. I will think about good, calm, happy things. If something is really sticking in my head as I fall asleep I will get up and write it down so it's out. But I won't think about work, I won't play out worst case scenarios about boys or friends or big black dogs. I will not think about money or the state of the world.

As we speak I am snuggled in my bed with my laptop propped up on a pillow. I figured I would do my favorite thing RIGHT before I fall asleep, get my brain nice and empty and then SHUT DOWN.

Here we go...

10 comments:

jess said...

well, if it IS genetic, we share that gene for sure.
If I get on an airplane and it crashes, what will the kids do? Will they remember me? Will Ryan re-marry? What a jerk to not make a shrine to me. He better make sure my parents see the kids. What if they don't remember to pay the bills and have no place to live? Who will clip their fingernails?
Holy crap, its a sickness.

Zachariah said...

Actually (climbing up on my soapbox here), thinking about the "worst case scenario" is really healthy and helps to stop worrying. If you can honestly face a worst case scenario and decide that you could theoretically live with that, then there's nothing to worry about anymore. If you leave your cell phone somewhere, worse case scenario is you're out $100 to go get a new one, right? Or is it that someone finds it and uses it to call those overseas 900 numbers and runs up a huge old bill? Even then, you could probably dispute it to a point...

anyway, climbing down off my soapbox now... :)

Chloe Elizabeth said...

It may be a sickness, but I think there's some benefit to worrying. Well, maybe not worrying, but planning.

I have found that reading my scriptures while lying in bed with only my lamp on is a sure fire way to fall asleep quickly. In fact, I often fall asleep too quickly...does that make me a bad person?

bets said...

i understand worry so very well.

f*bomb. said...

I used to be like that, too (from my grandmother's side). Hence my irrational fear of broken glass, coral, and mistletoe. Then I realized (much like Rock beats Scissor), Procrastination beats Worry.

Get a notebook.
Keep it by your bed.
Jot down the things on your mind.
That way, you can always worry about it tomorrow.

Dainon said...

Did it work? I have a hard time understanding this mindset, because I am prolly your polar opposite. I don't worry about a single thing. They may as well knock out one of my front teeth and stick me on the cover of MAD. Or play Bobby McFerrin singing his theme song everywhere I go. I hope you can get your worry under control.

P.S. I saw your bro and sis this morning on a run. They didn't much look worried, either.

elizabeth said...

yeah, it's hereditary.
in fact, i don't remember the last night i fell asleep without laying awake for at least an hour worrying about this and that.
and then, like you, i worry about how long i've been worrying, and then i worry that i'm not going to be able to stop worrying, and that it will cross over into my dreams. then i worry that i'll have such bad dreams that i won't want to go to sleep the next night....
i think it's some comfort, though,
to know that it happens to a lot of people. maybe not about the same things, or to the same extent, but we all panic. and we all come to our senses. and it happens over & over. but somehow we find our way around it. shoot. i'm gonna go write my own post.

elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jayne said...

Now I'm worried that I made my children into worriers!

C said...

I was the exact same way until about a year ago. Some of the stuff I worried about actually started happening and somehow, this made me worry less. I guess because I realized that life goes on and you learn you have a capacity to deal with things you didn't think you could face. Now I probably don't worry enough:)