I guess I have always been a worrier. Being a good student, I worried about maintaining my status as one. I certainly did not want to get in trouble in school, and rarely did. I can clearly remember the time in 6th grade that I got yelled at by Sr. Margaret for talking too loud in the girls bathroom. Didn't matter that five other girls probably also got reprimanded, the fact that I did still stings when the memory comes up. The worry of getting in trouble often conflicted with my worry about the other kids liking me. I wanted to pass notes to be in the cool crowd, but was terrified of getting caught. I would lay awake nights hoping that I didn't get anything less than a 100 on a test (or 105 if there happened to be a bonus question), but then worried about looking like a know it all nerd in front of my friends. Yeah, I was definitely a worry kid.
That worry kid turned into a worry teenager, worry college student, worry twenty something, and worried adult. I don't think I realized through any of this that I WAS worrying so much. I just figured it was a normal thing to do. I mean, doesn't everybody worry? Doesn't everyone want to do well, have friends, succeed, be healthy and happy, have everyone like them, be perfect? OK, maybe not. Or maybe not to the extreme that I did. Looking back I see that worrying was my way of controlling the uncontrollable. If I worried enough about having friends, I would always have them. Worry enough about grades, and I would always get A's. Worry about making mistakes, and I would prevent myself from making them. Worrying for me led to thinking and thinking led to problem solving which led to taking action which often led to more worrying. And also led to a whole lot of stomach problems and dis -ease.
My head was a tape recorder (remember those?) set to shuffle and repeat that just kept playing the same messages over and over again: "If you don't agree with her opinion, she won't be your friend anymore." "If you drop the ball, they will all laugh at you, and know one will like you." " If you don't get a job right after college, you will not be able to repay your loans, and you will never become a teacher." "If you eat that pasta and don't exercise for an hour you will be fat." Over and over again, my brain replayed the same fears and anxieties and searched for away to solve the problem permanently, a black and white cure-all answer that would make me never have to worry about again. But even when one worry was solved or taken away, there was always a new one waiting to fill its spot in my brain. I don't think my brain, or my self, knew what to do if it wasn't worried. Those anxieties in a way were actually comforting to me - they were normal, what I knew best how to do - take them away and I would become depressed and bored. If I had no worries, who was I? Where was I going? What would I do?
Contentment, peace, true happiness - these are words that my brain would not understand till many years later. Thankfully, I am now in those "many years later" and am starting to realize the power of being content. The joy of not worrying. The miracle of the way this life really works.
And the meaning of true and lasting happiness. Does that mean I have all of the answers and don't worry anymore? Of course not. But my brain is also not the tape playing, anxious, future predicting monster it used to be. How did I get to this new place? Time, teachers, friends, reading, yoga, infertility - lots of letting go of of control. Like everything else, a journey. A journey I am still on.
And now I am a mom. Worrying can take on a whole new meaning when you are a mom. Doesn't it come with the territory? Is there anyway around it? Can you truly be a loving mom and not worry? Hmmm....I'm working on that too. Another road in the journey. A road in which I have picked up a passenger. A small, beautiful, innocent , young traveler just beginning this journey. My child. Yes, worry mom has a worry child. Traveling companions are always nice, but in this case I really wish he chose another route to his destination. But we are now here together, and as the older and wiser one (sometimes, just the older one) I want to show him the way. Make his journey a little quicker, less painful. Can he learn from my mistakes? Can I teach him another way to live? Can I help him become worry free? Oh hell -can I just take all his pains, illnesses, worries, hurts, sadness away so that he never is anything but happy and content. Really, is that too much to ask?
I know, I know...he has to go through his own experiences. Learn his own way. Develop his own strategies. Make his own meaning out of this life. But I am his mom. And I want to do what I can to help. I want to be a guide, an example, a source, a teacher. I can't take his worries away, but I can help him to learn to do it for himself. And in the process, I can continue to find ways to live my own life worry free. Because if I want my child not to worry, I must do the same. As Gandhi said "Be the change that you want to see." I'm sure going to try.
May your heart be at ease,
angela (Santosha सन्तोष - contentment)
For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. ~Author Unknown