The Worry Factor

Carole Vasta Folley

By CAROLE VASTA FOLLEY

Worry. It’s something I worry about. If it were an Olympic event, I’m certain I’d place in the top 10, possibly medal. I come from a long line of champion worriers but wouldn’t be so arrogant to declare I was the best. It’d be sheer hubris to assume I’d be on top of the worry podium. Even if I were, I’d never claim the title for fear of offending other world-class worriers. That’s how great a worrier I am. I even worry about ridiculous make-believe situations.

My most common worries all land in the motherhood category. I thought these would taper off with time. But, nope, it’s a worry-muscle I’ve strengthened with use. Then, there are health worries, from the trivial “Am I getting a cold?” to the consequential, “Cancer?” While I can easily fret about the weather, what’s for dinner, and whether I’ll have teeth when I’m older, I’m also good at worrying about presidential tweets, gun legislation, and world peace. There are absurd concerns too – what my bum looks like in Levi’s, if I eat too much cheese, and who will win “Survivor?” It’s a runaway train, folks, where any ol’ thought can instantaneously be shaped into a worry. Like my mind is a Play-Doh Fun Factory without the fun.

Worry should be a unit of measure, a specific weight. Like each single worry is a pound of woe, a woe-pound, let’s say. Maybe if we thought about it that way, we’d be as conscious about the pounds of worry we carry as the pounds measured on the scale. Woe-pounds are wilier though, because they’re invisible at first. One can’t see the woe-pounds strapped to my back with, I’m pretty sure, extra on top of my head, weighing me down, slowing my progress, and overall dampening my day. Woe-pounds eventually reveal themselves through a furrowed brow and a smile turned upside down. In fact, there might be a case made for less plastic surgery if instead of a facelift, we removed woe-pounds, releasing all that weighty anguish from our visage.

I don’t know about you, but for me, worry can accumulate at a rate of speed a NASCAR driver would envy. I could easily amass 50 woe-pounds in 10 minutes. And those 50 sit merrily on top of my other thousands. It’s a regular bounty of anxiety I bore every day.

In order to truly relax and enjoy this life I’ve been given, I’ve decided to shed some woe-pounds, many that have been there my whole life, like worrying I’m not enough or safe. I really don’t need those anymore. Also, I’m practicing not worrying. Instead of habitually going to that deep groove of worry I’m accustomed to, I choose something else, because even Dr. Phil said you can’t stop doing a thing, you have to replace it. He also said something about rodeos and pancakes having two sides, but that’s for another day.

In place of worry, my “something else” to practice is gratitude. I merely pivot the “Oh my God, I’m so worried” to an “Oh my God, I’m so grateful.” It’s not hard to do. It’s just hard to remember to do, considering we’ve been worrying since the cave-women days. I’m not talking Wilma Flintstone here. I’m talking about reasonable anxiety, like whether a saber-tooth tiger will eat you while you’re relieving yourself behind a boulder. It’s no wonder we worry, it’s in our DNA. It’s not wrong; it’s just not helpful.

I can report with confidence this method of letting go and cultivating appreciation has lost me more woe-pounds than any other diet. Plus, in this crazy world of unknowns, it gives me something to do every day.

Carole Vasta Folley is a Vermont award winning playwright and columnist. Contact her at carolevf.com.

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