Natural born worrier
“Worry is a down payment on a problem you may never have,” says Joyce Meyer, Christian author and speaker and president of Joyce Meyer Ministries. I wish I had known this 20 years ago.
You see I am a recovering worrier. Both parents were worriers so I was stuck with the gene, or so I thought.
While my now 70-year-old can wax on about the virtues of keeping a cool head and a peaceful heart now, twenty years ago, it was a different story.
My dad, on the other hand, who looked as if he could go through life horizontal, 20 miles an hour, was a closet worrier.
He would worry deep down inside, he would bite the skin off his fingers (never the fingernails though – a habit I have picked up and perfected since my childhood!), bite the insides of his mouth. The world none the wiser to his anxiety.
Case in point, at 19 I went on a ferry alongside some thousand five hundred people that was organised by the committee which held the annual international sports fest.
At the end of the festival which would see teams from different international universities across the world compete for a week, the event ended on a high in the height of summer with a weekend of festivities. The must-attend was the boat party.
The year 1999, mobile phones were few and far between, and only one friend out of a circle of six had one.
Midway through the night, in the darkness, crowd and body heat, we got separated, which meant by the time we realised the ferry would be an hour and a half delayed in reaching the shore at the end of the night, I had no way of letting my parents know.
After frantically looking for my friend everywhere, I gave up and instead decided to enjoy the party.
Once ashore, with still no sign of my friends, no money, and no way of phoning home, I flagged down one of the team buses heading back to campus, figuring they could drop me near my house. It was fortunate I lived a 15-minute drive from the campus just off the main street.
At around 2am, I was home and of course met with my mother’s whispery hiss, “Where were you? You are two hours late?
Why didn’t you call?” Half asleep and on my way to bed, I quickly explained what happened.
My dad, who had been fast snoring, as it turned out in the morning after post-mortem of the night before, had only gone to sleep ten minutes before I got back, having fretted since the clock midnight and giving my mum hell for letting me go to the party in the first place.
That night was just a cross section of my life with the parents.
Daddy would fret and make Mum miserable with his fretting and in turn, Mum would fret, then vex, then finally explode at the sight of me.
Then again, she was the daughter of a dragon mother who would be roaring fire if her 26-year-old, grown-up daughter came in from work five minutes later than expected.
For years, I accepted my condition as genetically inherited until only recently I began questioning my long-set habits like seeing the glass half empty.
You see when you are conditioned from childhood that the glass is half empty, the worst is yet to come, what comes up must come down you are likely to view everything in life through worry tinted filters.
The lump is never benign, but always the harbinger of cancer, your boss scheduling a meeting is never a promotion but always a dismissal, your husband going out with the boys and not picking up the phone at midnight can only mean he’s had a car crash on the way home.
Until you finally see the light and realise, as Meyer says, “Worry is like rocking in a rocking chair all day, because it keeps you busy but gets you nowhere.”
As for the recovering part, I admit I am still a work in progress.
When worry creeps up, my first instinct is not ‘keep calm and carry on’ but ‘lose your head and have a breakdown.’
It is only after the initial shock wears off, I can remind myself to stop rocking the chair and start getting busy in other ways.
Now when I feel worry creeping up on me, threatening to take hold, I take a breath and count to ten, I exercise to get the endorphins rushing and my mind off my troubles, I pick up a book or a puzzle.
Or to end in Joyce Meyer’s words, “When you begin to worry, go find something to do. Get busy being a blessing to someone; do something fruitful.
Talking about your problem or sitting alone, thinking about it, does no good; it serves only to make you miserable. Above all else, remember that worrying is totally useless. Worrying will not solve your problem.”