I hate to admit it, but most of the things that Wemberly worried about are things that I worry about, too.
What if a tree falls on our house?
What about the crack in the wall?
What if no one comes to my party?
Empathy for Wemberly in Kevin Henkes’s charming Wemberly Worried, had me wondering if I worry too much. Well, that’s not true. I worried that I was worrying too much. Truthfully, I never considered myself to be a flagrant doubter, but Wemberly and I seem to have a lot in common. In pausing over this vexing dis-ease, I thought of another tangential book that has merit in addressing this preoccupation. In her book, Loving What Is, Byron Katie asks the reader to think seriously about what life would be like without nagging predictions and conjured dread.
“How would your life be without that worry?” she proposes. Much improved, I imagine.
She further advises the reader to recognize that thoughts are not reality, they are just, well… thoughts. Which begets the next question:
“What makes you think your thoughts are true?”
Hmmmm…. two very good questions:
How would your life be without those malevolent musings?
What makes you think that your thoughts are true?
If I apply these to the vexations I share with Wemberly, I note that I would enjoy storms more if I didn’t worry about a tree falling on our house (especially since it probably won’t happen as we got them trimmed last month). Further, if I weren’t preoccupied with the crack on our front porch, I would fully immerse in the delight of that outdoor room (and we can patch the crack when the weather warms up). Finally, if I stop supposing people might not having a good time at our gatherings (they always do), I wouldn’t get stressed out during the preparations.
For additional consideration, I recently came across a tiny book dedicated to giving up worry called Give Up Worry for Lent! by Gary Zimak.
Ahhh! The perfect solution! I thought.
I bought the book, and pledged immediately to use it to stop my disquiet for forty days and beyond – once and for all. This little paper-bound healer claims that following its prescription will lead to a worry-free life. Naturally, I was all in and vowed to read the brief reflections and follow the proposals each day.
Thirty-some-odd days in, I am startled to say that the suggestions are actually taking hold. I am fretting less and have devoted at least some of that formerly-occupied psychic space to loftier pursuits.
Two great pointers from the book are especially helpful. The first is:
Fear and worry are entirely different things. Fear is a natural, protective emotion; worry is the conscious choice to routinely ruminate in negative possibilities.
The second suggestion is to estimate how much time each day is currently devoted to worry, (One hour? Two? Three? Five?) and pledge to use that time differently. I am deliberately choosing to think about a higher being, spring planting, a new sewing project, a current book, the next blog, summer vacation, solving a puzzle… You get the idea.
Little by little these reassuring suggestions are affecting my outlook – and perhaps even my health.
“Your blood pressure is beautiful!” the nurse exclaimed yesterday at my doctor appointment.
“One twenty over seventy-eight. Best one I’ve seen all day!” she confirmed.
I smiled with pride.
No worry, I thought.