For most of my life I’ve been an expert worrier – if there wasn’t a good reason to worry, I could make one up. And there have been several periods in my life when stressful situations were outside the norm – the year my parents split up, the year my grandmother died and my husband lost his job (all in the same week), the year my son moved away from home. During those times, I found it difficult to eat or sleep, found myself obsessing over the situation to the extent that I was unable to concentrate on anything else, found myself lying around staring mindlessly at the television for hours on end.
It’s been a long while since I’ve had a really substantial worry, and I guess I’ve grown a little complacent. I believed I had learned how to handle life’s smaller vicissitudes with a bit more aplomb, and that’s probably true. But I have several very substantial worries right now.
Just last week I was musing about my son, comparing his life to a multi-colored kite soaring in the breeze. That kite has encountered some stormy weather, and is being tossed about quite roughly, so we’re all feeling the effects here on the ground. For not only have he and his wife run into some significant roadblocks in their quest to start a family, my daughter in law is suddenly facing unexpected surgery this week.
It never ceases to amaze me how life can turn itself on a dime, how things can be going just swimmingly, and suddenly you’re caught in a riptide being sucked under before you have a moment to catch your bearings. I find myself slipping into that familiar mode of obsession/distraction, riffling the problems over and over in my mind like strings of worry beads between my fingertips (maybe I should get some of those). I had saltines for dinner, spent two hours last night watching the Entertainment channel (ick), and fell asleep in the chair. I wander around the house, picking up clutter and setting it down somewhere else, desultorily play a song or two on the piano, just pounding the notes mechanically beneath my fingers. I feel as if I haven’t learned a thing about how to handle stress, for I’ve simply reverted to patterns established years ago.
Most of my difficulty arises from the loss of control that is inherent in any situation like this -from not being able to fix things, from not knowing what will happen next. I feel completely incapable of handling life, so I wander, dither, worry. As the saying goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.”
There is much written these days about the power of positive thinking, of envisioning the future you want to have. I would like to buy into that philosophy, but maybe I’m just too old. I keep slipping back into my familiar mentality – bad things will happen, and there’s nothing you can do to change them. Because lately I haven’t seen too much evidence of good things happening to anybody, positive attitude or not. Amidst the continuing stories of economic and social doom and disaster clouding even the bluest sky, there hasn’t been much evidence that anyone’s vision for a brighter tomorrow are coming true.
But right now, the concerns of the wider world are of little consequence to me. It’s just my small corner of the world I’m worried about – my family, it’s present and it’s future.
And the skies are a bit too blustery for my liking.