I can’t recall what made me start being a worrier. My mother once told me that I was born looking worried, but personally I have yet to meet a newborn that doesn’t look like it is terribly concerned about the conflict in the middle east, or the current economic crisis.
As a child, a trip in the car meant that I worried about running out of petrol. A school camp meant I worried about the weather, that I would be cold, or that something would happen to my parents while I was away. Our parents saying we needed a family meeting meant that I worried they were going to tell us they were getting divorced (honestly – they never argued, showed no signs of unhappiness, but that was my first thought). I read a book once about a young woman with leukaemia – from that moment on, every bruise made me think about the fact that this was the first sign of the disease.
At school I of course worried about exams, my uniform being right, getting a detention (never happened), and that the train bridge across the Brisbane River would choose the very moment my train was going over it to collapse, plunging the train and all of us in it into the Brisbane river. Twice a day five days a week I worried about this and had an escape plan every single time.
I loved the Peanuts cartoons and especially Lucy Van Pelt. In one of my favourites she is talking to Schroeder, telling him that she had worried about an exam all week. She worried and worried and worried and got an A. In the final frame, Lucy says “I wasted a good worry”. This, it seems, was to be my life’s story.
When I became a mother there was so much to worry about I couldn’t possibly list them all. I worried someone would break in and abduct the baby while I was in the shower. I worried they were eating too much or not enough. I worried that a visitor with a cold would end up in a hospital visit for my child.
I’ve not stopped being a worrier, but at least now I more often than not can tell when I’m doing it unnecessarily. And I have a swathe of quotes about worrying to remind me why I shouldn’t:
- Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.
- Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and focus on what could go right
- Worrying will never change the outcome
- Worry is a misuse of your imagination
- I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.
Note – worrying may not change the outcome but I’m confident I’ll be the best prepared in an emergency. if it happens
I started looking after Dad when he was 88 and to be honest he did not need a lot of looking after then. When Mum died he lived a 45 minute drive away but I made the trip there times a week to drop off meals and assist with the odd thing with which he needed help. But the endless worry about him started the day Mum died. What if he fell and couldn’t call, What if he calls an ambulance and they can’t get in to the house?
As he has become older there are more things about which to worry, which seems to correlate to the level of his movement and independence and general health. Thank goodness he does not have dementia!
- I worry about him being lonely
- I worry about him hanging the washing out, as it involves walking down three stairs
- I worry that, if he hasn’t answered the phone, he is lying on the floor unconscious
- I worry if he gets a cold, assuming it will turn into pneumonia
- I worry that something will happen to him when I am away, which means I don’t go away very often unless someone is available to care for him
- I worry he will fall down the stairs at church
- I worry about him being too hot or too cold
- I worry about him falling in the bathroom
- I worry how he will cope every time there is a change in his circumstances
- I worry about his finances
- I worry about the need for him to one day go into a nursing home
I DON’T worry about him driving or any other people on the roads any more thank goodness, as that particular avenue of pleasure has been voluntarily given up. He does however worry about my driving. Maybe it’s genetic.
When he broke his wrist a few months ago I worried about EVERYTHING – how would he dress, undress, shower, eat, balance, cut up Oscar’s chicken meat.
As it turns out, most of the things I worry about are wasted worries, and as I cheerily tell him (while not always believing it myself) – every problem has a solution!
We had an intellectual discussion one day, Dad and I, about the concept of worry and anxiety and he told me that his father had often quoted something to him and his brothers about worry – he couldn’t quite recall the whole thing but said part of it was ‘worry is rust upon the blade’. So out came my iphone for a google search (he always marvels that I carry an encyclopaedia around with me) and I found the quote:
I have left the quote ‘as is’ without attempting to make the language gender neutral.
So what to do? I accept that I am a worrier. I notice when I am worrying and practice not catastrophising to the worst possible scenario. I certainly don’t (to my knowledge) show Dad that I am worried about anything to do with him. I have started practising meditation to slow down my brain and stop the thousands of small but annoying worries that flit through my bring each day. As it turns out meditation is a skill that takes a lot of practice.
Worrying about our loved ones is natural. Oddly I do not worry about him dying – I know this will happen; but it is because I know Dad is not at all worried about dying. He has such a strong faith and I do believe he is ready. I just hope he goes to sleep one night and when I don’t get my 7.30 am phone call to let me know he is up and about, and I check up on him, that I find him looking at peace, in eternal sleep.