My name is Sue, and I’m a worrier.
I don’t like that I’m a worrier, and I try to pretend that I’m not. I maintain that I don’t like to worry, but others may dispute this. The expression, “she’s not happy unless she has something to worry about” has been applied to me, I’m sure. But I do try not to worry myself, and I try not to worry others. At work I often say, “It’s not time to worry yet,” but I don’t know if I’m trying to reassure others or myself.
I think we can all agree that it doesn’t do any good to worry and that worrying is not fun. And while reminding someone of these things might help short-term and calm the mildly distracting worry, it really doesn’t help the person who has received a cancer diagnosis or who is worried about money when they have recently lost their job. Knowing that worrying doesn’t make a difference, doesn’t cure worry.
When I was a kid my mom used to call me a worry-wart. I HATED that, mostly because I objected to the word ‘wart’. But I did worry. I had a lot of childhood worries. I worried whenever Dad would take us for “a spin.” This was dad jargon for an aimless ride in the car. He loved to find a road that we had not been down before and turn onto it. I was sure every time that we would become lost and not be able to find our way home. I worried about running out of gas – probably because I never knew where we were at or where we were going. We did run out of gas one time on the way to Kalamazoo. I was beside myself. But he walked to the next exit, got some gas at the gas station and we continued on with our trip and the world didn’t end. I worried about being home alone. I worried about growing up and having to support myself financially. And as I was the youngest child, I worried that my parents and my siblings would all die before me and leave me alone in the world.
I did not worry about what could happen when I frequently walked up to strange dogs and threw my arms around them. I wasn’t afraid of thrill rides or rollercoasters. I didn’t worry what might happen to me while I ran all over town with friends and my mother had no idea where I was. One time when a neighbor was having some work done on their garage roof, my friend and I climbed up the ladder to check out what was going on up there. What a view! It was great and I was not worried at all… until my friend’s mom hollered up to us that my mom had called and wanted me to come home immediately. I worried all the way home. Mom told me she had been washing dishes, and when she glanced out the window she saw me “walking around in the sky.” This was clearly a new worry to add to her list.
Now, I have old people worries. Things like health, finances, my responsibilities at work and my son. Don’t let anybody tell you that you don’t have to worry about your kids anymore when they turn 18, or move out of your house, or get married. Worrying about kids is a life-long activity. I also worry that later on I’ll have regrets about how I spent my life – I admit I have a few already. I worry that my focused attention is on the wrong things. I worry that I care too much and I worry that I care too little.
When I worked in manufacturing, we had a safety consultant from MIOSHA that visited our facility pretty regularly. One of her training videos claimed that 90% of what people worry about will never happen. At the time, I wanted to know how that claim was validated. These days I have my friend Google to ask, and guess what? The stats I found this morning are not that different from Ms. Nott’s training videos from the 80s. Ha!
Check out these stats from an article by Earl Nightengale: The Fog of Worry (Only about 8% of worries are worth it.)
- Things that never happen: 40 percent. That is, 40 percent of all the things you worry about will never occur anyway.
- Things over and past that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world? 30 percent.
- Needless worries about our health: 12 percent.
- Petty miscellaneous worries: 10 percent.
- Real, legitimate worries: 8 percent. Only eight percent of your worries are worth concerning yourself about. Ninety-two percent are pure fog with no substance at all.
Source: The Essence of Success by Earl Nightingale. Edited by Carson V. Conant.
I’m trying to decide if that information assuages any of my worries. I think I’ll stick with turning to the comfort of my mother. As I said, she was a worrier, but she also had a good head for keeping things in perspective and she was a great comforter. I can still hear her say, “Thaaat’s okay” when I would rant about something upsetting. She would always tell me that things would look better after a good night’s sleep. It would upset me when she would say this, like my troubles could so easily be dismissed, but it was maddeningly true. And these days, when I’m really worried, I remind myself of her saying “Do Not Let Your Heart Be Troubled” (John 14:1) and I know that she and God always have my back. What could I have to worry about with a team like that on my side?