Yes, me. Worry.
I’ll admit it: I worry too much about too many things too much of the time. I’ve composed this two-part blog in the hopes that my experiences might help you deal with the worrier inside of yourself.
For most of my life, anxiety has remained one of my most persistent character traits. In recent years, worry in all its manifestations has seemed to increase. Two major worry-seeds come to mind: The decline of the environment and the current state of political affairs.
At first, I felt I was handling the stress that seemed to wash over me every day. But the constant warning noises about imminent danger gradually wore down my body, mind and spirit. I could feel tension in my shoulders, unexplained small headaches and troubled sleep. A collection of other physical symptoms—no doubt psychosomatic—gathered together into patterns that sometimes seemed worth medical attention. The end result of all of these thoughts and actions was a simple diagnosis: Stress/anxiety—a condition of mind and spirit that was not helpful in any way.
It would be easy to blame my disquieted feelings on what I imagined to be the sources of those thoughts. As you have read in my Climate Conversation blogs, there is good reason for concern about the deterioration of our planet’s environment. And our president does not exactly elicit confidence about the state of our nation. It could seem logical to fault both of these continuing misfortunes, to kvetch about the general state of things or to shift onto others the responsibility for my well-being.
But that would be dishonest, intellectually and emotionally. Spiritually, too. Blaming others is an easy way to slough off accountability, to withdraw into sullen (and perpetual) vexation. As long as I can blame “them”, I can imagine that I’m off the hook.
With a broader perspective, I can see how that attitude leads nowhere. If anxiety/stress eventually destroys mind, body and spirit, then blaming eventually weakens my resolve to do anything to change the situation. The cracks or holes in my well-being would still get larger, the reasons for being troubled would still multiply, and the vortex of worry would still draw me into a whirlpool of continuing apprehension about almost everything. Not a good way to live, right?
I can imagine that the anxiety I have dealt with over the last several years may have a special place in the lives of other older adults. Not all of us, and not all the time. But it seems logical that, at this time in our lives, some of us have come to realize how vulnerable we are to forces beyond our control. That can be more than scary—perhaps demoralizing and defeating.
One more observation about continuing anxiety—mine and perhaps yours: This way of thinking and behaving can spread into other unhelpful perspectives about life. About other people, and other facets of our existence. It’s not a big leap, emotionally and intellectually, to start thinking that there’s not much good about anything in the world. That there’s a problem with God’s providence, or that there’s no reason to keep trying.
None of this is a God-fearing way to live! In the next entry, I’ll take all of what I’ve written here, set it aside and continue with another thought: What can I do about my self-inflicted worry?
(Tomorrow: A different answer to What, Me Worry?)