Worrying too much — count your blessings
“If there is no solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it. If there is a solution to the problem, then don’t waste time worrying about it.” Dalai Lama.
Telling someone not to worry is like telling them to relax. It’s easier said than done. If you’re a worrier, you worry. Honestly, it’s usually not the Mid-East crisis or Ebola that keeps me up at nights. No, for me it’s frequently inconsequential matters that do the 3 a.m. tango through my brain. What if Revlon discontinues my favorite lipstick? Why does no one question my age any longer? Was that really decaf?
If that minutia can spoil my night, it’s a good thing I’m not the president. Or a mom. Oh, wait.
Still, in the middle of the night, my worries are real. For one thing, I’ll turn 65 next month, and for the first time, I’m beginning to doubt my goal of reaching 100 is still a good idea. You see, I’ve discovered old age comes with at least two caveats. First, I’ll spend my remaining years looking like my dead relatives and not myself. And second, I’ll have to attend more funerals. That’s what my mom meant when she advised me to keep making new friends because the old ones keep dying. I worry I won’t have any friends left if I make it to 100.
I’ve also learned eating right and exercising regularly — while recommended — are no guarantee against illness or misfortune. What if my personality changes (or worse, disappears) as a result of pain or fear or dementia? What if the little valve in my brain that keeps me from saying hateful things to loved ones and caregivers one day just springs open and releases a flood of venom and vitriol my current self finds mortifying? I feel I need to apologize in advance, just in case. I’m so sorry.
I read once worry is actually our ego, our pride believing we have more control over our lives than we do. All the same, I know we humans are pattern seekers, searching for cause and effect. We look for meaning because we believe life should make sense. It makes us angry when bad stuff happens to good people. We hope and we pray. We play the odds and make the best decisions we can. We try to learn lessons, gather skills and develop coping mechanisms. We treasure our family, our friends, and our faith knowing they help us weather life’s inevitable storms. But we worry we haven’t done enough.
Logically, I know it’s a waste of time to worry about things over which I have no control. And at my age, it’s time I can’t afford to waste. So, I focus on what is in my control. I stock up on my lipstick, eat my vegetables, take a walk, and read a book. I wear sunscreen and a hat to inhibit the proliferation of wrinkles growing like weeds around my mouth and eyes. I try to gracefully accept it’s my mother’s face I see looking back at me in the mirror each morning and her body that unfolds itself after a long car ride.
Perhaps, most importantly, I try to follow advice from my grandmother when I complained I couldn’t sleep. “Count your blessings,” she’d say. “Count your blessings.”
Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly.