Do you worry about useless things?
Do you uselessly worry? Maybe it’s worrying about:
- What someone thinks about you…
- Whether your house is too messy…
- How you look…
- Whether your pets are safe at home…
- If you have a brain amoeba…
Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
When worry gets in your way
For me, needless worry has definitely gotten in my way. Making the “right” decision on a minor purchase like a shirt. Worrying if people will be mad if I’m a few minutes late. And feeling overly anxious about characters in novels—imaginary things happening to imaginary people, kinda the point of fiction!
I remember 20 years ago watching my nine-year-old son pitch for his baseball team. I joked that I needed Xanax because my stomach was in knots, and all I could do was pace on the sidelines. I knew it was nuts but I couldn’t help it.
The same tension arose last month while watching my daughter in a professional disc golf tournament (yes! there is such a thing).
Tournaments generally have a 2-3 hour round each day for 3 days. Spending all that time strung out, I knew my nervous system was going to be shot. And I also knew my anxious energy wouldn’t help her, either.
The similarity of excitement and worry
I explored what my worry was and how to calm myself. I realized the intensity actually wasn’t just worry—it was also excitement. Both came from my investment in the future outcome. Would she win? Would her throw hit a tree? I could also spin into disliking her competitors, which is not the best way to spend my time around good people.
Excitement and worry are actually very similar to each other, from the sensations we feel… to our thoughts off in the distance, hanging out in the future.
The round might be only part way through, and I’ll be caught. Maybe it’s feeling the excitement of her getting her trophy, we’re all so happy! or…Oh, no, now I’m in despair that this other person won.
Either way, I was stressfully pushing the clock ahead by hours or days, hiding my current reality: I was in the midst of beautiful trees, birds were chirping, and had time with my traveling daughter. They all disappeared into my spin about the future.
The present of the present
Staying in the present, I hoped, would keep me from stewing about the future. I used my 7 Pathways to Rest practices to bring myself back. (The 7 Pathways aren’t just useful for sleep, they can help you deal with an anxious mind and stay present in stressful situations.) I returned over and over to what was going on in the moment.
I noticed the greening trees. Voices of players and spectators talking or shushing each other for careful putts. I felt my feet on the earth and imagined the microfungal network that connects trees, grasses, and blackberry bushes. I saw the brown fur of a rabbit rushing by. The air on my face.
It was great!
And then it wasn’t.
My anxiety and excitement “blew it.”
It was like the present experience stopped and instead my mind replayed an emotional movie far ahead of where I was or what I had any control over.
No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t shut that movie off. Grrrr.
The future movies eclipsed the current reality. But they were happening in the current reality. So I brought my awareness of these movies playing in my mind into present awareness. It went something like this:
Here I am feeling the air on my skin.
Hearing voices, airplanes, and crows squawking.
I’m sensing the miracle of the earth under my feet.
Enjoying the company of my daughter who made me smile.
Now I’m feeling myself expand with excitement being inside the movie of Yay! Winning!!! and now the pit in my stomach with Uh Oh, Maybe Not.
Noticing the disc flying through the air and clanging into the basket
Touching the bark on the trees, remembering how we’re all connected underground.
Bringing all of myself back into the present (including the urge to not be present) helped me enjoy the tournament. It also helped me learn more about what pulls me away from myself, which I plan to write about in the future.
Now looking back on the tournament, my memories aren’t of my stomach in a knot or getting caught up in the result. Instead I remember seeing my daughter’s long pulls and great putts, cottonwood leaves rustling, and celebrating her win!
If you end up using some of what I’ve shared here, or other ways to come back to the present, let me know in comments or email—I’d love to hear.
Bringing all of you right here, just for this moment,