I gave up worry sometime between getting cancer in both breasts and needing two new heart valves. Worry never did me any good and it probably did me considerable harm. Somehow, I always felt that worrying was like prayer for the non-religious.
In fact, the things I worried didn’t happen. The things I never saw coming all happened. That’s what’s wrong with worry. We worry about what we think we should worry about, but when trouble comes, it is always from a direction we never expected.
I was a moderately healthy young person. I had problems with my spine and had surgery to fix it. It didn’t quite do the job, I just assumed it was fine and went about life like there was no problem. Until that auto accident. The one where the kid with no insurance tee-boned me at an intersection because she just didn’t feel like waiting that extra minute for the light to change. When they dragged me to the hospital and ran x-rays, the guy came out of the lab holding the films. He was ghostly white.
“These are really … well … I’ve never seen anything this bad. It’s just a bunch of tiny, broken shards. You need to see someone. Like … well … can you walk?”
I figured he was simply viewing the rubble from the spinal fusion I’d had in 1967. Time had not dealt gently with it and the bone glue — which is actually made up of bone they took from my hip, pounded into paste, drilled out my spine and glued it together using my own bone glue — had broken into a million tiny pieces. Or, as the lab guy said, shards. Me? I wasn’t worried. My back was pretty sore and I hadn’t had an exam on my back since … 1967. It was 1998, so I figured no harm in getting a check-up, right?
I had to find a doctor and after three attempts and finding doctors who didn’t even bother to look at my x-rays before having me in as a patient, I found one. I knew I was probably in a bit of trouble when the lab lady came out with tears in her eyes, looked at me, and said “Oh, I’m SO sorry.”
“So sorry?” That didn’t sound good.
I discovered I was giving up horseback riding. I was also giving up lifting, would be very careful about bending. I didn’t care about the lifting and bending, but the horses? That was hard.
“What if I’m extremely careful?” I asked.
“And what if the horse spooks? One fall and you won’t be getting up again. That’s it. One fall. You’re done.”
I didn’t like the sound of that. So, I sulked. Brooded. Worried. Obsessed. Eventually, I gave up riding, but I cried every time I saw a horse. I got over it, more or less. I worried about my back and about being poor — because we were and are.
I had surgery to get my weight down, to lighten the load on my spine. Except the surgery went horribly wrong and I wound up much sicker. Nearly dead, actually. Just as I was recovering from that (I had no insurance or it wouldn’t haven’t gotten that bad) and after multiple surgeries and hospitalizations, I was beginning to feel pretty good. That was when I discovered I had cancer in both breasts. Oops.
My mother died of metastasized breast cancer, but she was a lot younger than me, so I figured I’d dodged that bullet. But at least my heart was good, right?
Less than three years later, I was in the hospital needing two new heart valves plus a lot more heart surgery.
I never saw it coming. So all that worry about things that never happened. The obsessive fretting, anger, inner rage? Pointless and stupid.
While I was trying to recover from the heart surgery, I realized I had nothing left to worry about. Whatever was going to happen, would happen. My worrying about it wasn’t going to change anything, not for good or ill. It would make my family and friends crazy having to listen to me, especially since as we’ve all gotten older, there’s a lot of stuff on our plates. Much of which is pretty bad.
I don’t worry. No matter how awful the news is, I frown, absorb it, forget it. If there was more I could do to fix it, I’d be doing it. Meanwhile, I write. I encourage others to write because that is what I know how to do. I’m not going to be hoisting a placard or marching with protesters.
We are surprisingly poor. I worry about it when I must and don’t think about it the rest of the time. Bad things happen? I get scammed? I get mad … and then I let it go. I do not spend the following months seeking revenge or court judgments. Revenge is worry with murderous intent. I’m not a killer.
Things work out.
Worry made me fat. Worry made my hair fall out. Worry made me a permanent insomniac. It caused me to lose sleep more nights than not. Worry caused me to make some truly stupid choices. Worry quite probably helped my heart self-destruct.
These days, I don’t worry. Not for more than a few minutes at a time.
That I can’t remember anything for more than five minutes probably helps.