Strach ma wielkie oczy.
-Polish proverb meaning “Fear has big eyes.”
Auugh! Why can’t I just go back to sleep? It’s 2 in the morning for god’s sake. My head feels like it’s going to burst open. I make myself turn over to the other side, hoping this might help stop the thoughts that are rushing like a mudslide, almost burying me. My heart pounds against my ribcage, and my scalp is getting tighter by the minute.
And it all started so innocently:
A noise outside woke me up. What was that? A burglar? I listened intently until a deep silence enveloped me. Perhaps a raccoon, or a night bird. But it was enough to set off my internal alarm. Once I woke up I started thinking. First I went over the list what I needed to do the next day. Then, the ‘what I should’ve done’ list started to appear in my mind. And the more awakened I became, the more into the past I went. Unfinished loan application, the unsent letter, a friend who wasn’t returning my calls… How I needed to find a new gardener who really cares. And a pool man, so I didn’t have to care. A handyman to fix things, and mend, and….
Wait. Maybe I should just relax so I can go back to sleep. How about I meditate? Can I just meditate lying down – it’s just too much effort to pull myself up. Up, up… down the spiral, here it goes … I’ve been in this place before. I repeat my mantra:
I am concerned, I care, I am nervous, I feel discomfort, I am anxious, I am annoyed, I am troubled, I am bothered, I feel uneasy.
This is a typical scenario for me and many women out there. The quieter the outside, the louder my inside. The next day Jerzy commented on how tired I looked. I told him about my sleepless night. So, tell me, I asked him, do you worry?
No. I don’t waste my energy on worrying, he said. But I must admit, I have some fears that light a fire under me.
When I asked him what they were, he told me and then said that he didn’t worry because he was doing what he could to prevent them from happening. Jerzy reminded me of a Stoic saying: Know what you can and can’t control. It was a reminder of how to keep your mind peaceful. Do whatever you can to prevent disasters and enjoy the moment, because that’s all we really have. Whatever you do, you have to find pleasure in it. You do have control over this, whereas worrying drains the pleasure and joy from life.
With time I’ve learned that worrying is a waste of time and energy. It leaves you drained and scattered. I’ve found that worrying is very passive; it’s rumination that leads to a frozen state, or wishful thinking instead of acting.
Woman have always had the traditional role of caretaker. They’ve also been the ones who had to wait over the centuries—wait for men to return from war or from work. But this is an outdated paradigm. Now women fight and go to work themselves, just as men do. There’s a way to act and to reflect mindfully without it turning into rumination. Instead it becomes action. That night when I couldn’t sleep, I finally reached out for my journal and wrote down all the things I had to tend to, closed it, and went back to sleep with a peaceful mind. All the worry went into the journal and the next day, in the light of morning, I was ready to work with the list. The ‘big eyes’ had shrunken down to a normal size. I realized that worrying is just a bad habit and that it was ultimately up to me to banish it.
Is worrying ever useful? How? Do you have a method of your own that helps break the spell when you worry?
Leave your response below in the comments.