Do you ever have the experience when you're reading something and it's completely unrelated to you or your real life, but then you come to a sentence and it's like the author wrote it to describe you? And you didn't even realize it described you until you read it and suddenly you're like, yes, yes that's exactly how I am or that's exactly what I'm feeling?
I do a lot of reading, so this happens to me fairly often, but I always get a shiver of pleasure when it does. There's something so satisfying about having someone else clearly and beautifully articulate the incoherent thoughts that are bouncing around in your brain.
This happens a lot when I read things about grief, of course. Right now I'm listening to an audiobook. It's a novel, and the main character's mother just died. It made me wish I was reading on paper instead of listening because I wanted to copy down the description of how he was feeling, of his distant certainty that it would just take a bit of time before the world made itself right again and quit traveling down this wayward path away from the way things should be. (That's not a quote, the author said it much better, but that was the general idea, and do I ever know that very feeling.)
Anyway, I am an occasionally reader of this blog, Enjoying the Small Things, and I was reading about the author's concerns for her daughter who has Down syndrome. I'm not facing that particular challenge, but I was filled with sympathy for many parents whose concerns about academic and social success in school (which I imagine almost every parent has) are amplified by additional challenges their children face.
And then I read this phrase: ...my worry quickly translates to urgency...
And I was like, holy shit! That's exactly how I am! My worry ALWAYS translates to urgency. I want to analyze it, research it, and FIX it right then and there. It explains why, after a few months of trying (unsuccessfully, obvs) to get pregnant with Zuzu, I was absolutely insistent that I see a reproductive endocrinologist. When I am worried about something, I want to deal with it RIGHT.THIS.SECOND. I don't want to wait and see, I don't want to pause and take a breath. I want to launch headlong into research and plan-making and immediate action. I don't tolerate uncertainty very well, and I want to make sure there is as little of it as possible.
I have a friend whose worry seems to move in the opposite direction--toward what appears to me to be denial or disregard. It's frustrating for me because, were I in her circumstances, I would handle things so completely differently. She laments missed deadlines and looming time frames, but seems (to me, anyway) not to take specific action to remedy these things. I just don't understand her approach because I'm all OMG the URGENCY!
It was interesting for me to read that sentence and recognize it as a truth that described me, but also as one that certainly doesn't describe everyone. It's not the only way to handle worry, and it's certainly not the right way or the best way. It can be effective, yes, to treat worries as though they must be dealt with right then and there, but it can also be an enormous waste of energy and a major cause of stress. Not every worry is urgent, and even major problems are not always ameliorated by taking immediate action.
Occasionally--and I remember doing this more often in graduate school--I would make a list of everything I was worried about. Usually assignments or exams, but sometimes money issues or other deadlines or conflicts or anything else that might be on my mind. This helped me deal with things that I couldn't fix right that moment--there was no way I could solve the problem of my Major Field Exam nine months in advance (but I could definitely fret over it!)--and helped me prioritize what needed to be done. It was calming to see my concerns listed out on paper, and so satisfying to cross them off the list eventually. I loved going back to those lists six months or a year later to see that the things I'd been so worried about had all worked out just fine.
I like to think my worries have changed in perspective since I was in graduate school, when things like health and safety seemed easy to take for granted. Still, I manage to worry about plenty of smaller things that are more manageable but certainly not as urgent as I often make them out to be. I hope this little moment of self-awareness translates into an ongoing recognition of what really needs to be done and what I'm making seem more urgent than necessary. Not every decision has to be made right this second, even if I'd feel better if it could all be decided.
I suspect this is related to one's tendencies to procrastinate or not (I am not a procrastinator, but my best friend--not the one mentioned earlier--totally is. And--like my other friend--she deals with worry very differently than I do, craving distractions where I get rabid for more information).
So, informal survey... how do you worry? Do you tackle things as though they have utmost urgency? Or put worries on the back burner and deal with simpler tasks first?