Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Can't Complain (Todd Snider)

So... two blogger friends posted yesterday about worrying... and I commented to each... among other things suggesting using The Serenity Prayer as a benchmark (serenely accepting, courageously changing, wisely differentiating) - today, I will struggle to take my own advice... :-)

See yesterday's post regarding my home leak - see potential panic and dollar signs in my eyes. The leak detector guy came this morning, surveyed the whole house (headphones and sonar equipment and beeping, oh my!) for the routing of the pipes... and determined the leak is in our master bathroom under the floor - it appears the toilet will have to come up, as well as the gorgeous cobalt blue tile that was one of the features attracting me to the house 16 years ago...

The plumbing company is coming *back* tomorrow to give me an estimate on exactly how much this is all going to cost - there is bad and good news: it is unlikely my homeowner's insurance will pay for this since there is no visible damage and the pipe is under the house, therefore no threat to structural integrity. The other good news is that, since this is in the *hot* water system, I am keeping the hot water off, but we still have water throughout the house (to flush toilets, make tea, wash hands, etc.) - when I want to shower, I can turn the hot water back on long enough to accomplish... and then back off again (a pain... but nowhere near as inconvenient as it *could* be).

Trying trying trying to keep my wits (ha!) until I *know* what I am facing - received an e-mail from my husband traveling on business to Mexico, stating: I am okay. Thinking of you. All my love. Part of me would love to respond: I am not okay. Wishing you were here to help deal with this mess. Don't ever leave me alone again. (He doesn't have a clue yet as to all this stuff - I'm waiting until I know "the big picture" before I share details.) Then I remember how much he traveled in the past, and I know I'm lucky to have him around as much as I do these days - I pat myself on my back (tight with tension knots) that I am strong, capable and a good decision-maker.

The money will come from somewhere... that particular pipe will not bother us again for a while... and maybe it's time for a tile choice that reflects me and not the previous owners - how's that for sugarcoating?... :-)

Plus... thankyoujesus tonight is water aerobics class (I've been going twice a week for the last two months), I've been eating much healthier (loving the fruits and vegetables from the food co-op), my mom's health seems to have stabilized a bit, two of my three kids are doing well (and I'm handling the other with equal amounts love and boundaries), I know I'm voting for Barack Obama and will be volunteering at their headquarters over the next few weeks, I'm reading an old Ann Patchett and listening to a new Todd Snider.... and last night's jacuzzi soak was under a full moon - still thinking positive thoughts (and urging those around me to continue as well)... but I didn't cause this problem and I have the wherewithall to fix it.

As my friend sharon is fond of quoting her dad: "if a problem can be fixed with money, it's not a problem" - so true, so true...

For my previous posts on Worry, click here...

Real Simple, December 2002/January 2003

Think Constructively
Worrywarts tend to automatically assume the worst will happen in any situation. You can head off the cascade of negative thoughts by challenging them with logic, says psychiatrist Edward Hallowell. Ask yourself questions like How do I know the situation is bad? What are other possible outcomes? Is there a more positive way to see the situation? Say you have a falling-out with your fiancé. Instead of spending the rest of the day in a panic, convinced your relationship is doomed, remind yourself that the two of you have fought many times before, that your fiancé loves you, and that fights are a normal part of all relationships.

Make a Plan
Action is a powerful antidote to anxiety. After that argument with your fiance, make a list of what went wrong and how you could deal with it better the next time, or call a friend to discuss the spat. Likewise, you'll have less fodder for worry if you start addressing the situations that cause you stress. Hallowell suggests you come up with three specific changes you want to make that address specific worries, such as making a will if you're concerned about your estate, seeing your dentist if you fear gum disease, or cleaning out the attic if you're afraid it has become a fire hazard. Next to each item write down how and when you are going to tackle it. Once these are done, give yourself three more tasks.

Get Organized
Many everyday worries grow out of disorganization. Every bit of structure you add can reduce the time spent in useless worry. For example, get in the habit of making lists or keeping a daily schedule, or set a basket by the door to hold your keys so you can avoid that frantic morning search.

Distract Yourself
If you can't shake a worrisome thought, take a brisk walk or play a game with your kids, pull a few weeds or read the paper. Anything that requires some concentration is helpful, says psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema. A 10-minute break is all it takes to shut off the negative cycle of rumination. Another trick: Wear a rubber band around your wrist and when the train of "what ifs" starts gathering steam, snap the band hard and tell yourself to stop. The experts say such thought-stopping techniques really work.

Schedule Your Worries
Set aside a time and place — not the bedroom or anywhere else you like to relax — where you can spend 10 to 30 minutes every day worrying. That's right, just worrying. During that time, let all your worst fears rip. For the rest of the day, if a concern pops up, tell yourself to set it aside until your worry time. "When you worry without resistance, it tends to lose its power," says Wilson. Over time you'll find those troubling thoughts are less intrusive.You can also postpone worrying into the future. If you're nervous about giving a presentation that you've been preparing for days, tell yourself to set those fears on the back burner for 20 minutes to two hours. When that time comes, either let yourself worry about it or postpone it again. This technique will help keep you more relaxed and in the moment.

Write Your Worries Away
Keep a pad by your bed to jot down that vexing problem that jolts you awake at 2 A.M. You'll be able to get back to sleep knowing you won't forget about it. A worry journal can also help, though be sure to use it as a dumping ground and not a place to endlessly recycle the same concerns. You can also use a journal to work out answers to troubling problems.

Worry with a Friend
Nothing brings your troubles down to size more quickly than sharing your concerns with someone else. Along with sympathy, you'll get a clearer perspective and help in brainstorming possible solutions.

Tame Your Tension
As psychologist Beverly Potter points out in The Worrywart's Companion, tension and worrying go hand in hand, but if you can relax your body, your mind will follow. Try deep breathing to unwind and root yourself in the present. (Your abdomen should go out when you breathe in, and in when you breathe out.) Or practice tightening and then releasing your muscles from head to toe to teach yourself the difference between feeling tense and feeling relaxed. Seek calm through prayer, meditation, or yoga.

Treat Yourself Well
You know the drill — a good night's sleep, a warm bath, regular exercise, healthy eating, limited caffeine. Add them all up and your anxiety decreases.Although some of these techniques may feel awkward or artificial, stick with them and you'll find they work. Just ask psychological researcher Evelyn Behar. When she was writing her master's thesis, she found herself up night after night, consumed with worry: How would she finish on time? Would her professors think she had done a good job? She knew she needed to get an adequate amount of sleep, so she gave herself a scheduled time and place to worry. Every night at eight, she gave herself 20 minutes of "worry time" on the living-room sofa. "I finally forced myself," she recalls, "and it saved a lot of time during the day, time I would have spent worrying. Overall, my anxiety level went down."

Let Go
Easier said than done. However, many people who make a habit of worrying often become convinced their vigilance is keeping bad things at bay — like the white-knuckle flyer who is certain her anxiety is keeping the plane aloft. The truth is, we don't have control over many situations in our lives — whether it's the safety of the airplane we're riding in our ability to have children. Hallowell suggests you try turning your worry over to God, or to fate if you don't believe in God. Accept that your worries won't make the world any different; they will only make you more unhappy. How? Try praying; try writing the worry down and putting it in a box; try anything that helps you let the worry go.

POEM: Against Pleasure by Robin Becker

Worry stole the kayaks and soured the milk.
Now, it’s jellyfish for the rest of the summer
and the ozone layer full of holes.
Worry beats me to the phone.
Worry beats me to the kitchen,
and all the food is sorry. Worry calcifies
my ears against music; it stoppers my nose
against barbecue. All films end badly.
Paintings taunt with their smug convictions.
In the dark, Worry wraps her long legs
around me, promises to be mine forever.

Thugs hijacked all the good parking spaces.
There’s never a good time for lunch.
And why, my mother asks, must you track
beach sand into the apartment?
No, don’t bother with books,
not reading much these days.
And who wants to walk the boardwalk anyway,
with scam artists who steal your home and savings?
Watch out for talk that sounds too good to be true.
, she says pointing at me,
don’t worry so much.

QUOTE: "We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday's burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it." ~ John Newton


  1. Susan,
    I'd forgotten how wonderful your blog is. I {heart} it! Just wanted to send a quick "thank you" for your post to "Mom Sequitur".
    Now all I need is a hot cup of coffee by my side and about sixty minutes to thoroughly read all that you post.
    Are you sure you're not a professional writer? Magazine editor?
    Remind me, please. You used to teach preschool, correct?
    Might I have permission to show your blog (pieces) to my challenge CA class? (In my district, challenge means advanced.) They're going to be creating their own web logs ... thought I'd show them one of the best as a model.
    Really ... it's amazing to me how you link songs and poetry to your posting themes. Genius!

  2. I think worrying is a good thing if it doesn't go to extremes because it shows that you're a caring, thinking person. Just remember to be happy and relaxed in between worrying. :-)

    At the moment I worry about Obama and the death threats of fanatic McCain fans. We really need the change, over here on the other side of the Atlantic too.

  3. Important message for you: you are amazing and strong and overall wonderful. End of message. (=

  4. Hey, Kate ~

    You are so dear to stop in, given your hectic school schedule - I {heart} your blog too!

    Yes, I did teach/director preschool in a previous incarnation - English major/journalism minor plus a love of language has me twitching to read and write most of my waking day...

    I would be amazingly honored if you used some of my pieces to show your students - not sure if it qualifies as genius... but I love the challenge of the thematic formula I've set for myself (to paraphrase Todd Snider: standing on the corner of creativity and anal-retentiveness... :-)

  5. Hey, Helena ~

    I really like your definition of worrying... and the parameters it sets - I truly try not to worry about something that hasn't happened yet (very much of the "if you think it, you give life to it" philosophy")...

    That works both ways - I also believe that we can make things happen by visualizing and validating... and I know that the entire world is ready for the changes you suggest and Obama is sure to deliver!

  6. Amy, Amy, Amy ~

    Your Important Message means more than you'll ever know - I really just wanted to come home from work and go straight to roly-poly mode (climb under the covers and/or drink myself senseless) but, as I told my friend Melanie earlier, I would have missed the gym, I would have gained a few pounds... and the problem would still be here tomorrow!

    Instead I'm eating a big-*ss salad of most healthy ingredients, feeling my muscles ache in that so-proud-of-myself way... and getting ready to watch the debate - mind over matter (or martini, in this case... :-)

  7. I will have to be sure that our dear *M* sees this post - and the list of steps to combat worry.

    Susan, I hope the plumber estimate (is it Joe, the plumber?) is reasonable and swift and that some of the sting of repair will be diluted with a good dose of *new tile shopping*....hang in.

  8. Hey, Catherine ~

    I know, I know - we love her so much... and want to help ease her burdens. This article appeared in an e-newsletter yesterday, perfect timing - even though I'm *not* a worrier, I think it offers many constructive ways to do things differently (I channeled all my anxiety into water aerobics last night!).

    Yeah... Joe the plumber, John McCain's new best friend - where does that guy get off?!? Mine is Al... and he should be here shortly with the estimate - I'm sipping a cup of tea, ruminating on a purple candle and hoping for the best, whatever that will be (ommmmmm... and thanks for the support... :-)

  9. Thank you for the love & caring, my dear friends. My worry level has subsided, no doubt in part to the increased amount of chardonnay in my system, but at this point, whatever the f**k works, right? xoxoxoxo

  10. Hey, M ~

    You know we both love you - glad to hear things have released a bit...

    Hey, your chardonnay is my yerba mate - whatever the f*ck works, indeed... :-)