This post started off in about May 2015, so I want to come back to it.
I want to posit that, within reason, worry does some effective work. This isn’t necessarily woo-woo, but I do hear in woo-woo circles about letting go, not being afraid, etc. etc. etc. Much more easier said than done.
I won’t go into the reptilian brain, fight-flight-or-freeze, our ancestry, or any of the cool science we already know about stress, cortisol, and fear.
Last night, I had been fretting about the end of the semester, but also my career path. I was pretty sure I wanted to be done with teaching. I have a very volatile love/hate relationship with teaching. I currently teach English composition at a community college, but it’s been fraught with mistakes and worries (how many times can I revise a syllabus? why can’t I seem to get to the details sooner? why is my tongue tied? why do I still have stage fright anytime I lecture? why doesn’t Blackboard ever seem to work?!) Sometimes, I love how I can get through to a student, when I can see them learn. I had a couple of students tell me last night that they enjoyed my class. But sometimes, I’m dealing with freakouts from them as well as just sheer disrespect (why aren’t they reading my emails? why don’t they just do what I say?).
Part of me wants to give it another shot–although with so many students who withdrew, I don’t know if I’ll be given that shot. The pay is abysmal–it comes with no benefits, but there’s something about transferring knowledge, wisdom, and experience that as a nerd, I really like. I have learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, so I want to try again. At least today, I do.
And today, I’m at peace. Well, the thing I was worried about was whether I was doing the final right (it seems like I was, but if not, then I’m sure I’ll hear about it). But it was also the worry of whether I’d be making the right or wrong decision–do I stick it out, knowing that I deserve to be paid better? But why am I so miserable? Is it because of a lack of confidence? Even though these questions have haunted me all semester, today they aren’t as bothersome.
Worry, in my eyes, is something that you do because you feel like you can’t do anything. It’s like the being on the treadmill of your mind, working off fear.
Almost two years later after I first began this post, I still think this is true, that worry can be useful. A recent study showed that worry is linked to a high IQ. Additionally, people who are happy and cheerful, of course, aren’t the ones who brood over problems. But that very brooding can be used for problem-solving–and guess what? Happy people are worse at problem solving.
Earlier this month, I had a freakout moment about money, one of many I’ve had over the past six months being underemployed. But this one almost crippled me. I couldn’t go hang out with my friend as planned because I had erroneously thought that I’d have enough for an outing. So I had to cancel. I really started to brood–how could I get myself out of this situation?
A friend gave me a quick writing job that I did in a couple of hours, which he was impressed by. Another friend gave me some writing work and many ideas to help me find work. All that worry actually created some money.
Would I say I’m neurotic? Definitely not. I’m definitely hyperaware of my environment, of people around me, and how people perceive me. I’m sure I had to learn how to do that living with my father who increasingly became mentally ill. It’s a survival tactic.
Whenever I think everything will work out and just leave things alone–I’m always caught off guard by my optimism. It’s like the Universe gives me a #WellActually and wakes me up.
Of course, though–there needs to be a middle way. I was physically upset from the money stress, and no one wants to have elevated levels of cortisol if they don’t have to. But I don’t want to walk around blindly in a bubble of bliss either.
How I can really believe things will work out without becoming spiritually lazy? I want to put in my effort. When does concern morph into worry which can become a disfiguring anxiety?
I’m still trying to figure that out for myself. I know that anxiety can simply be prolonged worry that you can feel in your body, that you can see shut down your mind. I’ve had my share of that.
Right now, I’m concerned that I will go into a third month of not being able to pay for my car while paying for everything else. And today, I woke up with that dread. How will I get out of this hole this time? I basically need like $200 (although to catch up I’d need about 4 times that)
Last night, an obnoxious but I guess necessary writing job came up and I completed it. There’s $20 dollars. A writing professional organization got me off of their waiting list last night and it’s only $4.50/month (a huge discount!) for me to have access to all these writing gigs and employers. I bid for two jobs today and I also applied for a contract technical writing position after a recruiter asked me to apply. The money is good and it comes with benefits.
And maybe, metaphysically, Spirit has been taking some pity on me, as I worry. So maybe these opportunities are now become visible? This month really seems to have taken a shift, and I’m not sure if it’s me that has changed (probably) or just life as I know it (probably), or a combination of other things that I can’t see or perceive (most definitely).
Not to laud worry too much, there is a dark side: stress can make you so stupid. You can’t think clearly for solutions, if worry’s stranglehold starts to choke you out and make you see stars. No one wants that.
So, I’m not going to push worry to the side and say that it can’t solve problems. Think of the scientists who brood over diseases, searching for the latest cure. That’s just one example of worry in action. Worry has its wonders and its drawbacks, and we have to learn to find the middle way of this important part of the human condition. It textures our world and our perspective, and it can be the spark of imagination and inspiration to solving our problems.
We just can’t let worry rule us.