Friday, August 27, 2010

Proactive Worrying, or How I Prevent the World From Collapsing Around Me

Ahem. *knocks on microphone* Is this thing on?

Hello. My name is Linda, and I am a worry-holic.

*sigh* My family tells me I have worrying down to a science. Sadly, they are right. I do worry. It's almost a superstition with me--I'm afraid if I don't worry, something bad will happen. It's as if I can prevent whatever I'm worried about from happening by the sheer force of my worry.

(But I don't worry compulsively. Honest. Once I've put in a little worry time about something, I let it go. I figure it's covered then, and why belabor it?)

See, I have come to a realization: it's the stuff you don't think to worry about that always sneaks up and bites you on the ass. Like when lightning struck our maple tree out front, for instance, and the resulting arc of electricity fried every plugged-in electrical appliance (i.e., all of them) we had. I had never worried about that happening.

And yet it did.

On the other hand, I have worried about a plane falling out of the sky on its way to or from a nearby airport, and landing on our house, possibly while we are all asleep on the top floor, crushing us to death beneath its flaming fuselage.

And this has never happened, not even once.

You see? My method of Proactive Worry must work. Anecdotal evidence supports it!

Other Things I Have Prevented through Proactive Worrying:

  • My nose falling off when I have a cold (due to having to blow it too much).
  • Bears eating my family while we stayed at a cabin in the woods in West Virginia.
  • Sharks eating my family while we were at the beach. (This one has worked multiple times.)
  • Horrendous car crashes every time someone I know gets in a vehicle.
  • Getting stuck in an ice cave in Switzerland, only to be found years later, frozen solid, by an unsuspecting group of Swiss schoolchildren.
  • Forgetting my lines onstage.
That last item is the clincher: the one time I didn't worry about forgetting my lines--because I knew them so gosh-darn well--I got onstage and...blanked. It was a dress rehearsal, not an actual performance, but still mortifying. You can bet I never made the mistake of not worrying about forgetting my lines again after that.

So, how about you? Worrier or not?

I understand if you're not. Worrying can be time-consuming (but not as time-consuming as if the things you're proactively preventing by your worry were to happen, mind you), and not everyone is willing to make the mental investment.

Tell you what. Since I've become so adept at it myself--really, it's second nature to me now--I'd be willing to take on some of your proactive worries for you, on a temporary basis, just until you can work it into your schedule.

So, what is it you'd like to prevent? Alien abduction? Adult onset acne? Hemorrhoids? Horrible confrontation with your in-laws over whether to have turkey or ham for a holiday dinner?

Just let me know in the comments, and I'll be happy to work it into my worry schedule.

And then, whatever you do, try not to worry about what I'll expect in return...



Suze said...

I have a question. Have you always been this way, or did you start worrying at a particular life-moment (having kids, turning 30... wait you've turned 30 right?). It's just that I noticed early-onset worrying at around 35, but I think my mum started when she retired. It's all rather worrying.

Jessica Lemmon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica Lemmon said...

At first I was all, "Pshaw! I don't worry!" But now that I read this, I DO PROACTIVELY worry.

Huh. Go figure.

And it just so happens I worry all the time about our two 50+ yr old Maples crashing into the house and taking out the roof.

But that has yet to happen. (Also I have the plane fear, even though we are nowhere near an airport...)

Unknown said... forgot to worry about the rouge asteroid hurtling its way toward Earth and causing the dawn of the next ice age....

other than that, i think im good :)

Trisha Leigh said...

I am traditionally NOT a worrier. Like, at all. About anything.

Then I signed with my agent, did revisions, and sent them back to her. I'm waiting, and guess what else? WORRYING.

This game sucks.

I've also noticed that the older I get the more OCD I become - I have to convince myself I put the garage door down, or turned off the curling iron, or locked the front door. When I was 18 I never would have thought twice.

Kelly Breakey said...

Well it is good to know I can have you do my worrying for me b/c I am of the belief that if I worry I draw that to me so even when I find myself "worrying" about something, I will turn it around so that I see whatever it is I am worrying about in a good way. But now I have you. And you can do it for me. I feel such relief.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

I took Patrick McManus's advice and invested in a worry box. It's about this big (holds up hands to demonstrate) and it can only hold a set amount of worries. Once it's full, I can't take on another worry without chucking something that's already in the box. Keeps my worries from spilling all over the house and hijacking all the closet space.

On average, it can hold about half a dozen medium sized worries (colder and wetter than normal ALL FALL?), or up to twenty small worries (will I ever get all the bug goo off the front of my car?) Occasionally, the whole bunch of them gets shoved out by one really big worry (Ack! Bear!)

Handy little bugger, my worry box.


I wouldn't call myself a worrier necessarily, but I do subscribe to the theory that if I fret about something, it won't happen (because like you said, bad stuff likes to sneak up on you).

And as you well know, there's lots to worry about in the manuscript submission process!


Patty Blount said...

Yep. Right there with you. I worry about all things.

ALL things.

Kids, cars, money, jobs, health, the country's security, you name it, I worry about it.

Not sure if this is the writer in me or just well... me, but every time I walk into a fast food joint, I glance at the patrons and wonder which one is gonna shoot up the place? My first job as a teenager was at a fast food joint in Queens, NY, where (years after I'd left) was the scene of a horrific shooting, the Wendy's Massacre.

Steph Schmidt said...

Horrendous car crashes every time someone I know gets in a vehicle.

I do that every time I get in the car! Then again it could be the people I'm in the car with...

I was paranoid the school killing the power with all this heat because we feed into the grid & they make us do brownouts so no one else looses power. I was terrified this would happen, naturally, right as I'm in the middle of writing something brilliant. Then I would remember I have a laptop and the worry eases but wouldn't totally vanish.

That said the heat wave broke. Proactive worrying sent for fog with next day shipping.

Elizabeth Ryann said...

I worry that I'm actually not going to win the lottery sometime soon and someone else will buy the yacht, private plane, and giant aggressively-awesome estate I plan on building. This is a near-constant concern, frankly. I'd appreciate if you could take it off my hands so I can rake in the cash tomorrow. Thanks!

Linda G. said...

Suze -- Hmm. I think the seeds of worry were there early, but having kids was like pouring Miracle-Gro on them. The key with proactive worrying is find the right balance. Just enough to prevent, without being paralyzing.

Jessica -- See how strong proactive worry can be? You are single-er, mindedly, holding up two huge maple trees and preserving your roof. Now, that's power!

Karla -- I'll add that to my list. Consider the Earth safe from asteroids.

Trisha -- LOL! Hey, I hear you. If anything will drive a non-worrier to worrying, the publishing biz will. ;) And yeah, getting older does tend to exacerbate all worries. I think it's because you get smart enough to recognize how many things there are to worry about.

Kelly -- Ah, yes. The Worry Magnet school of thought. I'm familiar with it. I will be happy to worry for you. You're welcome. ;)

Kari -- Oh, I like the idea of a worry box! But I think I'd need a worry backpack. Handier to toss in any stray worries that come to me when I'm out.

Tawna -- No kidding! I keep trying to up my publishing worry quotient, just to fend them off, but new ones keep surprising me.

Patty -- Ack! I remember that incident. No wonder you worry!

SM -- Oooh, I am so with you on the power worry. I HATE losing power. All our computers have backup batteries, but still. I'm afraid the batteries will fail, and I'll lose the one brilliant thought I manage to come up with on a given day.

Elizabeth -- *ahem* Did I forget to mention that it only works with altruistic worries? The personal-gain kind seem to be immune to the power of proactive worrying. Sorry. ;)

JentheAmazing said...

I'm a worrywart. I worry about everything. I worry about car accidents incessantly (like you). I worry about coming home to everything in my home stolen. I worry about fires. I worry about floods. I worry about everything. And don't even get me started on the Wookie. I get gas pains and suddenly I'm convinced I'm a horrible mother.

I've found, though, that writing down my worries helps me to alleviate them. It gets them on paper and forces me to look at them and see how silly some of them are. "I'm worried I lost a shoe?? REALLY? I can buy new shoes."

Anonymous said...

You are singing my song. Right down to the if-I-don't-worry-about-it-I'll-be-caught-off-guard-went-happens logic. Welcome to my head, now throw in some paranoia and you can be my twin.

Candyland said...

OMG. I'm the top worrier in my field so you're not alone. I too am terrified of someone getting in a car accident when they get in their cars. And sharks eating us. And bears eating us (there's a lot of gruesome death fears here...).

Elizabeth Ryann said...

Thanks a lot, Linda. I'd like a refund on my worry-release program now, please.

Linda G. said...

Jen -- Don't worry (tee-hee), once the Wookie gets here you won't have TIME to worry too much. ;) I like your idea of writing them down & examining them to see how silly they are. Seems eminently sensible. :)

Posey -- Paranoia? OMG! Now I'm worried I'm going to get paranoid about my worries!

Candyland -- I KNOW! Horrible, isn't it? But I think as long as we keep applying judicious amounts of PROACTIVE worry, we'll be okay. :)

Elizabeth -- Oh, but there are no refunds. Did I forget to mention that, too? Gee, I guess I better start proactively worrying about my memory loss now. *grins innocently*

Deborah Small said...

I am definitely a pro-active worrier. Consequently, I am also fore-planner; always wondering what could go wrong, and packing for that, too. My DH, otoh, takes the "if I don't think about it, it won't happen, doesn't exist, will never happen" etc. His approach is: why worry? If it's going to happen, it will; deal with it then. This is not a good approach when it comes to parenting. As he's learned the hard way (poor kids) a few times. In fact, his tendency to believe nothing bad will happen, usually results in exactly that-something bad happening. Whereas I, like you, rarely see my anxieties realized.

I think my DH could learn from us. *g*


Linda G. said...

Deb -- I wonder sometimes if that's a "man" thing. I think (and this is just my own unsubstantiated opinion) that most men are pre-wired to deal with the crisis in front of them rather than the the imaginary one up ahead. IOW, another of those "men are from Mars" things. ;)

demery said...

I'm so glad I'm not alone in this! And I think you've pretty much covered all of my proactive worries. So thank you - maybe I'll take a little break :) I inherited the role of "worry-wart" (as she always called herself) from my Grammie. She was a real pro.