Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Worry Is the Enemy

A while back, I started contemplating doing yoga at a studio instead of the YMCA. I was ready for more, excited about this exercise that felt like coming home to me, and ready to explore new possibilities. At the same time I was hesitant because the studio would be more expensive. I was also unsure how comfortable I'd be with the spiritual side of it. I didn't have a job yet, but I was looking for one and their schedule offered so many options. The only difficult class at the Y was in the morning, three days a week and if I missed, I was out of luck. 

I felt confident this was a change God wanted me to make. He helped me find yoga and would help me take it to the next level. But when it came time to decide, I was insecure. There were so many factors I didn't know yet because I didn't have a job or a schedule. Was it too soon? Should I wait until I knew more? I felt reassured when I found out new members got a special, lower rate the first year and took the leap, signing up at the studio. A few days in, the class time I was excited about got cancelled. That's when a crazy thing happened. I wasn't worried about it. I thought, "Hmm. God knew this was coming and he still wanted me to switch, so let's just see how this plays out." 

Alright, people. This was getting weird because that's just not typical. I panic first. What was I THINKING?! I shouldn't have switched!  Then I realize that this isn't peaceful or trusting, so I change my tune to this: Kendra, you don't have to freak out because God's in charge and he already knew this. Stop worrying. Like, now...Hello! Why can't I FEEL the peace?!! 

I spend a good portion of my life attempting to feel peaceful. And this time it was just there. Already. It was my gut reaction, instead of my quick, we-need-to-fake-this-til-we-make-it fix. I can probably count on one hand the times I was initially peaceful. It seriously feels better. I high-fived God and said, "We should do this more." And I think his eyes crinkled like he'd been waiting all eternity for me to have a breakthrough, but also in a "it's okay with me that you are the most forgetful student ever."

So I came into this experience with peace I didn't even try for. So awesome. And weird. Back when I read One Thousand Gifts, Ann said stuff about choosing trust instead of worry. Well I'll be. It's a choice? I imagined the difference was something like wallowing in misery or romping gleefully through tall soft grasses. I figured it was up to me to decide how much time I was alright wallowing and when I'd reach for the stars of trust. To be honest, I was pretty used to the former and didn't work very hard to make new habits. Ann says the ticket to choosing trust over worry (rather than my method of reprimanding and telling myself I should feel differently) is to practice thankfulness. I've done this sporadically, adding things to a list on my phone when I naturally feel grateful, but not going out of my way to add when I don't. I still felt like it was an upgrade in quality of life; not a necessity.

But recently I read another book called, Protecting the Gift and I'm rethinking. This book also addresses worry and it turns out, it's not so benign. Worry (imagined danger) is a great way to be a nervous mess, which translates to a great victim of violence. (This whole book is focused on how to predict violence and prevent it, particularly when it comes to our kids.) We get jittery. Panic clouds our judgement. We might even start to tremble. Becker differentiates this from true fear. Fear is a signal our body/mind gives us when there's real danger around. And it has the opposite effect on us, clearing our minds to focus only on what we have to do to survive, giving our body a shot of adrenaline that prepares us for action. It makes us less likely to be a victim, because we become a dangerous person to tangle with (especially when our children are involved.)

So indulging in worry isn't a harmless past time, it's actually dangerous. "What we choose to worry about, however bad, is usually easier to look at than some other less palatable issue. For this reason, a good exercise when worrying is to ask yourself, 'What am I choosing not to see right now?' Worry may well be distracting you from something important." This is compelling when it's a safety issue, but what about our emotional well-being? We can use worry to distract ourselves from things that we could actually make better. 

Becker says we use worry to help us deal with our feelings of powerlessness. I used to think my worries tortured me when Brian left town, but now I see it was my powerlessness, or perceived powerlessness. No, I can't prevent his plane from crashing, but if someone breaks into our home, I didn't think "he better be ready to deal with me" because I thought of myself as a sitting duck. Either way is miserable. Trying to hold the plane up in the sky with your worry and believing you'll be helpless in the face of danger. Reading this book helped me see the truth about what I bring to the table when there's danger, which I'll try to talk about more later. But when a situation's out of my control, I'll try to sit with that reality and all the feelings it stirs up and let it be. If I can't make my mind stop fretting, I'll start in with some hard-core thankfulness and see what happens. Maybe more gleeful romping, but I'll settle for some more of that curious stillness I felt when my class got cancelled. I'd like some more of that. 

P.S. Just so you know, the links below are affiliate, so I get a small commission if you follow them to buy the books I talked about today.  


  1. Thank you so much for posting this. I find I can be consumed with worry sometimes. I like how you helped to differentiate worry and fear. Thanks for sharing!

    1. You're so welcome! I've been plagued by what I've called fear but was actually worry and didn't even know there was a real way out. So glad for brilliant, dedicated people who write books that become my teachers! :)