Strength in worrying less

What Mel Did - black woman thinking

2017 is the first year I left behind feeling less worried and more accomplished than I have done since Bronson’s death in 2010. Given that Bronnie died at the top of the year on January 15, contemplating a new year ahead necessarily took on new meaning(s).

I suppose this feeling of accomplishment crept up on me when I began to be again the woman Bronnie married. The woman that didn’t worry half so much about all the catastrophes that could befall her or those close to her. The woman who didn’t get so upset at human flaws (hers included). The woman who knew that worry or not shit will happen. Put less colloquially – the woman who knew worrying doesn’t change the outcome.

The woman who didn’t play small.

Remember the adage about the rocking chair and worry? It’s the one that says worrying is like a rocking chair in that it’s something to do, but doesn’t get us anywhere. This ties in with the psychology that opines worrying is our way of convincing ourselves we are doing something about a problem. In fact, all we’re doing is, er, worrying about the problem.

A sense of empowerment came about this year by taking steps towards things that were worrying or scaring me. Instead of worrying about the shit I couldn’t control, I focussed more on the things I could create, knew how to create.

Action weakened the worry.

Sure, many of us often fool ourselves that what we’re doing is not worrying but problem solving. Yeah. Right. No.

Worrying about being late for an important interview is less effective than setting alarms, getting a friend to call us, or even sleeping outside the company’s doors. That’s problem solving.

I was exhausted from worrying which, moreover, left matters unresolved. If worrying is the clay pigeon, action is the weapon that blasts that thing clean out of the sky.

And hey-ho, guess what? Worrying didn’t stop the bad things from happening – another reason I think we are sometimes addicted to the state of worrying. The belief we can preempt life’s disappointments by worrying about them first. This only feeds fear of the future, and fear leads to… yes, worry.

I guess worrying more than I ever did since 2010 was my way of staying loyal to Bronnie’s memory. If I was worrying more it’s because of what happened and what happened may be fading from others’ memories, but not mine. No, siree. The discovery here was that worrying about tomorrow, for whatever reason, invariably robbed me of today’s joy.

I began the quest to give that shit up halfway through 2017.

It was like the lightening bolt moment I had years ago when I gave up a heavy smoking habit. One day, I had the intoxicating thought “I could just stop smoking.”

Could it really be that simple? Yes. Wouldn’t withdrawal hurt ? Yes. But could I still decide to stop smoking? Yes. Does that make me some superhuman thought leader? No. It just made me someone who decided she no longer smoked.

Far from belittling the complicated steps which can be involved in certain changes, ultimately to change something we have to start doing something or stop doing something. I drank the kool aid for the best part of my life which said that change is hard and to effectively handle change, I would need a team of experts, a raft of self-help books and expensive remedies.

Albeit, on a previous attempt to stop smoking, I did consult a hypnotherapist. As a parting gift, he gave me a rubber band to wear around my wrist to ping when I felt the urge to smoke. Admittedly, these sessions did lead me to an interest in cognitive behaviour therapy and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming – how we communicate with ourselves)…. and sore wrists, but wasn’t ultimately successful in the not smoking thing.

But the ability to change stuff up anytime we like? Yes, I know!

Who knew it is possible to wake up on a run-of-the-mill wet Wednesday and decide all sorts of things. Like regularly going for a walk before work. No big guilt-ridden confessional about lack of exercise in the year, then promising to put the Snickers money into a £100 per month gym membership in the January.  No.

My trick this year was to not think about it. As soon as I start an inner dialogue about maybe walking after work instead, or how cold it is outside, I know my morning walk won’t happen. So, like an automaton in the mornings, I get up, sneakers on, hat yanked over bed hair, warm coat over pyjamas and out the door. Because getting out the door is the difficult part. Yes, I walk in my pyjamas.

Walking in my pyjamas no longer worries me, which when it did was connected to that age-old worry – what people may be thinking of me.

Here’s the thing with this one, and something I tell my children often:

1) 90% of the time people are thinking about themselves; and

2) we will never know what someone is thinking about us. Never.

Ruminating for hours about what someone may or may not be thinking about us ain’t gonna change the fact we will never know.

But it is in this not knowing wherein lies freedom.

The younger me would never have stepped onto the streets without full make-up and wardrobe – but yet it still didn’t give me the power of knowing what people thought of me. This way, the hour I would have spent primping for a world and their potential thoughts is an hour I spend walking in my pyjamas and getting fitter!

Gosh, people, they’re everywhere aren’t they? Wonderful, diverse, talented, supportive, gorgeous people – and a million more reasons in 2017 and the coming year to keep the dickheads that walk among us out of personal headspace.

Yep, another wet Wednesday decision: to keep a set of challenging people I can’t avoid in my week out of my psyche and personal life when I am home and out of Dickhead Land.

Okay, I didn’t go completely cold turkey on this one. To begin with, I would allow myself, say, an hour of thinking (read: worrying) about the shit events of the day – and there are always shit events. I then cut this time down to 30 minutes… but even that little leeway became toxic. A toxic 30 minutes thinking toxic thoughts about toxic people and, in turn, becoming queen of Toxic Petty Land. I gave up my reign when I started worrying I was becoming more and more like the people… well, you know.

In 2017, power lay in choosing to not worry – or, if that was too big a step, then to worry whilst taking any action on the worrying issue. Anything but just sitting in that rocking chair of worry.

This is the legacy Bronnie would want for me.

For me to stop worrying about the broken woman he left behind to start embracing the woman he would (hopefully!) want to marry all over again were he here to enjoy a happy new year with his creative wife.


But there again, I just can’t worry about it.

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  • What a wonderful and inspiring post. I seem to be getting to be more of a worrier as I get older but you are 100% right, it doesn’t help or change anything. Btw, I smiled at that rubber band – it must be the most expensive rubber band you every bought.

    • Thank you, and wishing you and yours the happiest of times this coming year. Yes, I worried a lot about the cost of that hypnotherapist and smoked more with worry! 😳

  • Great article and if I was a novelist rather than a management writer, I would be penning a new title on the top of my blank page “Walking in Pyjamas”. It has all sorts of possibilities.

    And what about “Toxic Petty Land”? Can see both these titles in the Richard and Judy List.

    • Thank you, Stan, worthy contenders for a biography! Just think about all the things we wouldn’t have been able to write about back in our days at *****, even though it would have been a daily source of rich material for any writer – management writer or novelist! 😳 Mx

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