I enjoy noise cancelling headphones without listening to any noise. Just headphones blocking out all sound. As I breathe, I am with myself. I hear my heart beating. I hear my breathing. I am present in my body observing me observe me.
It doesn’t take long for my mind to wander. What am I doing today? What am I grateful for? I scan my physical body. I am not worrying about anything at the moment. I haven’t picked up the worries yet. Some days I can’t put them down.
I am remembering conversations with my mother years ago when my kids were about 10 and 12. My mom worried incessantly about me, about my divorce, about my girls, especially about my chronically-ill daughter. We had a lot going on, but she seemed to take on the worrier role with devotion. She worried incessantly enough that I experimented with feeling the difference between the lulls of worry compared to her familiar worrying thoughts.
Worry has weight. Worry pulls energy down. If I could put a color and texture on worry, it would be dark gray and stick to my hands like a cobweb, drape like a veil, and it would weigh more than light. Worry blocks out light.
I imagine when worry is delivered, it drapes over the intended receiver. It’s hard to shake it off. It’s hard to deny its presence because worry is based on fear. Fear spreads like a virus.
I tried again and again to explain to my mom how her worry did not help. It hindered me from believing I was strong enough, smart enough and savvy enough to negotiate my life and all its challenges. It hindered me from believing my daughter would survive. It hindered me from feeling support. All I could feel was worry.
So I learned to worry from a young age. I believe it’s the gift that keeps on giving, passed down the line of loving parents concerned for their children. Of devoted lovers concerned for safety. It’s all based on holding on to love.
Every time I deliver a warning like “be careful” or “drive careful” I’m passing on my worry. I tend to worry more when I’m tired, not feeling well or triggered by an incident. Once worry starts, it opens up the worry door and in they come.
Reflecting on all the years raising my children, dealing with hospitals, doctors, medical professionals, educational professionals, and my own mental wellness, I’ve come to realize worrying is a language my mother used to express her love for me and my girls. She emoted love by laying on the worry. Much like my father loving me with a language of stern domination and expected perfection. Worry became a habit that helps me deliver the love and devotion I feel for those I love.
With awareness, I catch myself worrying. It’s so easy to fall into. If I don’t worry, does that mean I don’t feel as deeply? Can I find another way to express how deeply I feel for those I love? I want to say what I feel, not what I fear. I want my words delivered cleanly, not laced with worry. To say I Love You more often. I am here for you. You’re doing a great job. That is the gift I want to give to others. Love is the emotion I want to spread like a virus.
by Judy Brown, from The Art and Spirit of Leadership
truth to power,
love to friendship,
pain to those whose
words and acts have prompted it,
bears no relationship
to how the world responds.
It is the gold
of our own truth
we offer freely,
as if a gift,
with no consideration,
That was very, very powerful. Thank you. It spoke to a pattern I recognize which is worrying. I am a champion worrier for a variety of reasons. The place I focus most of my worrying on my daughter. It doesn’t do any good, it just works me into a snit. I found that if I can switch my thinking to she can do this, she is smart, she is capable, and I send her that energy and I tell her ‘you can do this,’ it is such a different dynamic. As you said, worry not only tangles us up, but it tangles up the person about whom we are worrying. So thank you, very helpful.
I really related to what you read. I grew up with my parents saying, whenever I left home, we are going to worry about you until you get there. I found myself saying it to friends I really care about. A friend of mine said to me ‘I don’t want you to worry about me.’ I told her that’s the Southern word for ‘I love you and care about you.’ We need to watch our language because if I tell you I am worrying about you, I am laying a worry on you. Changing our language to ‘I love you and care about you and I’m sorry you are feeling badly, if I can do anything, please call.’ It takes longer to say but that worry word is a worrywart. We got called worrywart growing up. I don’t like warts and don’t like being called one.
My mom is a major worrier. I liked how you pointed out that’s how your mother showed her love. I never thought of it like that. My mom cares about everyone and would do anything for anybody, but she worries about everyone. Everybody’s problems she makes her own. I tease her and tell her she needs to take a break from worrying. It’s not going to change the situation by worrying yourself sick. She gets upset with me and says somebody has to worry. That is her way of showing her love. I worry about you, I love you. Thank you, I never looked at it that way. If she’s not worried about me, maybe she feels she’s not loving me enough.
I’m a huge advocate for journaling. As I was writing this, I didn’t expect to find that worry is a language of loving until I wrote everything I wrote and then it was like an ‘aha.’ That’s the power of journaling. I say it over and over again, for people that have a lot going on in their lives, journaling can reveal things that we don’t even know we have an understanding about until it’s voiced.
Thank you. That was really powerful. I remember learning that worry is a prayer for what you don’t want to happen. I keep reminding myself that when I worry. I don’t want to pray like that. I love the line ‘I want to say what I feel, not what I fear.’ It’s true that worry is coming from a deep love. But when love is expressed as worry, it holds the energy that ‘I don’t believe this person can do something’. It’s turning that person into a child instead of looking at them as a capable adult and loving that capable adult. A child can’t do things and take care of themselves. So when I find myself worrying, I remind myself that this is a capable adult and I love this person as their strong adult self and not make them weak.
I think by moving out of worrying, you can do it through affirmations about the other person who you are worrying about. Also, dropping the worrying returns agency to the other person, which I think is crucial.
If we replace the word love instead of the word worry, when I hear the sentence again, don’t tell me not to worry, it’s heard as don’t tell me not to love. There’s confusion that worry means love. It’s interesting when we replace the word.
Your reflection was wonderful and I can apply it in many directions. One thing that came up for me is that I gave thanks for a parent who did not focus on worry. There are times in life when I get worried anyway in situations where I don’t have control over but I care. A coping thing I do, I might say to the person who has something going on, “I’m going to visualize you in a bubble of light” or “I’m wrapping you in a blanket of love and light.” Another thing I’ll do is tell them “I’m going to light a candle for you.” My friends have learned this about me. During the meditation, I realized that I can only worry about one thing at a time. It helps me cope if there’s only one thing on my mind.
Thank you. I’m thinking about worry as a kind of a prayer for sending thoughts out. When I first moved into the cottage I live in, I worried about finding a way to plow out my long driveway. It was consuming and stressful. My first attempts at a solution didn’t work well, a series of problems almost comical. But eventually, I found a snow angel who plows my driveway. I worry a little bit that he will retire. I am in appreciation. It was a kind of prayer that went out and I am thankful now.
I grew up with a grandparent and her sisters that worried so much that everybody joked when they didn’t have something to worry about, they got worried. That’s how much they worried. It lightened their worry. We’ve had this same discussion about the word ‘sorry’ and how it’s overused. It’s so easy to say ‘worry’ instead of saying an affirmation. I think it’s important to speak to people the way we want to be spoken to. We speak from habit, but if we think about it a little bit, it’s more meaningful.
My son came to mind. I don’t know how not to worry about him. He is declining and suffering with a complex medical condition. I do know that there have been many times that he’s told me “I’m going to tell you something and I don’t want you to worry.” I tell him it doesn’t worry me, but later on, I do worry. He’s an empath and he must know when I am worrying. I know he’s afraid. I do try in that moment to not to be anxious. My daughter is doing well and is capable and I am pleased she is doing something she loves. I know she’s seen me worry for years. If I tell her I’m worried about her, she wouldn’t like it. Also, I talk to a friend and she knows how exhausted I am. When she has said “I’m worried about you and worried that you will get sick and then no one will be able to take care of your son,” I didn’t like it. It adds to my own fears around my strength and it brings down my energy. I’ve told her not to say ‘sick’ or ‘worry’, to think of me in a different way, that I’m going to stay healthy. Your writing is so eloquent.
I was thinking how much I resonated with the last person who spoke. Recently, I had someone say they were worried about me. I found myself thinking ‘don’t worry about me, call me.’ Reach out to me. I was in a bad spot and it would have made a world of difference if they had extended their worry into action. The end result was that I hid myself from that person from that point forward. Don’t just worry, reach out.
It demonstrates that worry is heavy and it pulls us down. What a beautiful thing to say, instead of worrying, saying “I’m going to light a candle for you.” It’s so nice. What a difference in the energy when that is said.
The phrase ‘I am believing for the best in you.” It’s a habit using the same words. The more we practice supportive words, the easier they will come out. Words are gifts.
It’s good to have this conversation, the give and take of it. Thank you all for joining us on this conversation, sitting in our own presence and reflecting and sharing. I wish you all a gentle day and remember to surround yourself and others in light. And hopefully as we become more aware of our words that have worry in them, we’ll turn the thought over to get create positive light and a surrounding blanket of love all by using the power of words. Thank you all.