Sunday, October 14, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy

v. wor·ried (wûrd, wr-), wor·ry·ing, wor·ries (wûrz, wr-) v.intr.
1. To feel uneasy or concerned about something; be troubled.
2. To pull or tear at something with or as if with the teeth.
3. To proceed doggedly in the face of difficulty or hardship; struggle: worried along at the problem.

This morning I had a conversation with my husband where he was sharing his worry about the difficult coming week at his workplace. What if this happens? Or that? What's a conversation I have in my head all the time. Worry is becoming epidemic in my life and in his. Why is it that at our age, mid-50's, we are seemingly so much more burdened with it?

It's not as if I haven't worried all my life;  of course I have.  I remember worrying on my first day of school, how would I know what to do and where to go?  I spent sleepless nights worrying about surviving on my own when I moved away from home at the age of 18.  And when I first had my babies, I worried if I could manage to keep them alive, not to mention what would happen to them when they went out into the world.

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.  ~Leo Buscaglia

When you think of it, worry is the most useless of feelings.  It accomplishes nothing other than stress and panic, horrid physical feelings and sleeplessness.  And yet, we seem to believe in some subliminal way that if we could only anticipate anything that might happen, somehow it will be less of a surprise or we will be able to handle it better.  Isn't that what we think?  Isn't that one reason why we worry?

So far to date, I can't remember one time where my worrying made a positive difference to an outcome.  Many times I realized after the fact that I had "nothing to worry about".  Then again, apparently we connect having solved a problem to the fact that we worried about it in the first it felt "useful" to worry.  It becomes a habit.  And a vicious cycle.

For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe.  ~Author Unknown

Another reason we worry is because we feel we aren't "allowed" to be happy.  That until we solve all problems, everything and all things, we don't deserve joy.  Even that trip to Maui, sitting on the beach, feeling that you deserve this vacation because you've worked and worried so hard, can be interrupted.  "Wait, did I remember to...?"

So what do we do about this nasty habit of worrying?

I did some research on the web to get some ideas.  One, very simple trick that I read about was creating a "worrying period";  a time of day that you set aside to worry.  During the day, when something worrying pops into your mind, you write it down and tell yourself that you will worry about it during this "worrying period".  I am going to try that one out right away!

That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent.  ~Chinese Proverb

Another thing that I have already begun the practise of doing, is to become very aware of the moment I begin to worry, and then ask myself "Is there anything you can do about this at this very moment, Irene?"  Usually, there isn't because it's 2 o'clock in the morning and I'm just lying there, wide awake and worrying.  A similar thing I've begun to do is to bring myself into the present...kind of a "be here now" reminder.  I ask myself "Where are you, Irene?" and answer "I'm right here."  Sounds silly, but that small conversation with myself just re-focuses my attention into the present enough to let go of my worry for awhile.  Being in the present, or "mindful", is something often discussed in Buddhist studies.

One of my guitar students, in a recent conversation, pointed out that he notices the things he worried about terribly or became very upset over in past, often meant nothing to him a short time later.   Another question you can ask yourself is, can you remember what you were worrying about exactly one year ago today?  Probably not.

You can never worry your way to enlightenment.  ~Terri Guillemets

Life can be hard.  Bad things happen.  As human beings, we spend a lot of time trying to predict the future although it is actually impossible to do.  This is why we love Tarot Card Readers and public polls predicting who is going to win a presidential election.  We figure there must be some way to anticipate everything that's going to happen.  One thing that separates us from our friends in the animal world is our ability to know we are mortal, that one day we will die.  Which, to many, is their biggest fear of all.  Death is imminent.

Being able to accept that things will happen without attaching our thoughts and fears to those future events is the ultimate goal.  One minute spent not worrying about anything at all is Nirvana.  My goal is to spend a lot more time in that place!

If you have any other tips and tricks to overcoming worry, please share :-)

Some of your hurts you have cured, 
And the sharpest you still have survived, 
But what torments of grief you endured 
From the evil which never arrived. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Useful online resources:
How To Stop Worrying:  Self-Help for Anxiety Relief
Quotes On Worrying

Sunday, April 1, 2012

No Dumping Your Crap! Thank You.

I was out for my daily walk one day last week when I suddenly heard the squeal of car tires.  The street I was walking along has parking on both's not a main thorough fair so when you're driving along it, you have to yield to cars coming in the other direction because parking on both sides of the street make it too narrow for two vehicles.  Most of the time, one or the other driver stops to allow oncoming traffic through.  On this occasion, however, I realized right away that two cars had barrelled toward one another and neither vehicle had wanted to yield.

They were at my back, but I glanced around to see them both stopped.  I continued on, figuring that they would work it out but only took a couple of steps when I suddenly heard someone yelling.  It was a woman's voice and she was beside herself with rage.  "What the **** do you think you're doing?  Are you ****ing crazy?  Don't you know who I am?"  Well, the first two sentences  surprised me a little, but third one REALLY surprised me.  Don't you know who I am?  I wondered who she could possibly be but I was almost a block away by this time and when I turned to look again I could see neither driver, only their cars, one red Jeep and one gold mini van, still stopped.

I turned back and continued on my way.  She yelled again a couple of times and then I heard tires squealing as one of the vehicles took off.  I turned around to see that it was the red Jeep, but the mini van was still sitting in the same spot, as if frozen.  I half expected it to finally drive off in its respective direction, but to my surprise, it didn't. The mini van backed up into a driveway, and began to go off in the direction of the Jeep.   I looked past it to the intersection a few blocks away just in time to see the red Jeep signal and turn right.  Now I don't know what the person in the mini van was thinking, but my guess was that he or she was off to tail the Jeep.  Sure enough, when it got to the intersection, it quickly turned right, in the same direction of the Jeep.

I would have loved to know the end of that story!  Did the mini van catch up to the Jeep?  Was it just to get a license plate number or maybe to cause another confrontation?  Was the irate woman in the Jeep or the mini van?  And just WHO WAS this woman anyway, expecting a stranger to somehow recognize her?

As I walked along further, I realized that this woman's raging voice and words were still in my head.  I must have gone a half a mile before the voice was finally silenced.   It's not the first time I've been witness to some sort of confrontation on that street;  on another occasion I witnessed a car nearly hit a cyclist.  The driver of the car immediately stopped and got out and apologized;  a rare thing indeed!  But the cyclist, who, by the way, wasn't wearing a helmet, decided to lambaste the driver, yelling profanities as he stood there.  No matter what the driver said, the cyclist couldn't be placated.  Finally, the driver had had enough of the cyclists rudeness and yelled "Why aren't you wearing a helmet?", got in his car and drove off.

I couldn't blame him.  On that occasion too, the cyclists' yelling didn't leave my ears until I had walked quite a bit further.  Not even with the birds happily chirping and the sun shining through the trees could I let go of what I had heard.  Which leads me to wonder how devastating it must be to a human being who has to endure the rage of another over days or months or even years.  If it took so long to leave me on both of those occasions, I can imagine it never leaves one who is continuously bombarded with it.  Anger, especially self-righteous anger, is poison.  It can even affect a person who is simply within ear shot.

The sign you see in the picture above is one I see every day on my walk.  The first time I noticed it, I knew why the home owner had put it there.  For some reason, people would always throw their garbage on the other side of that chain link fence, into their yard;  things like candy wrappers or empty Starbucks cups.  I'd be mad too if I lived there and constantly had to pick up people's garbage from my own yard.  The sign has become somewhat of a metaphor for me.

ALMOST enough to want to make a t-shirt with that line on it to wear on my daily walks!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why Do They Do It?

I couldn't help myself...every time one of them rushed past me panting like a bounding canine, sweat flying, ears stuffed with iPod earplugs playing music loud enough that even I could hear it, I was a little peeved.

We were visiting Maui, and every morning my husband and I would walk along the board walk on Ka'anapali Beach, inevitably being met by one runner after another, sometimes couples, either coming from behind or from in front of us.  The runners coming from behind would sometimes yell, "Coming up on the right!" or left, or whatever, signalling for us to get out of the way.  Get out of the way??  It's called a board WALK.  Secretly I believed that they were feeling somewhat superior to us lowly stragglers.  I was pretty sure I saw a couple of them smiling to themselves when they weren't busy sucking in air.  Yeah, I'm in much better shape (pant!! pant!! pant!!) than you are, they were thinking.

Stop it, Irene.  I would attempt to restrain my negative thoughts, but then another jubilant jogger would race past me and my monkey mind would get the best of me.  Why on earth would you come to a vacation paradise and then JOG?  What kind of vacation is THAT?  Did you drink too many mai tai's last night?  Gotta work off all that mahi mahi, eh?  Think pretty highly of yourself, don't you?

STOP it, Irene.

I must admit, I've never understood the running thing.  I know perfectly good people do it and only for the best of intentions.  My sister runs to keep in shape and to help control weight, and she's a good person.  So why can't I look upon every runner as a good person, simply wanting to stay healthy?

After all, why were my husband and I out walking every day?  That's right.  For the very same reasons;  to work of the mai tai's and mahi mahi, and to make sure we didn't get too out of shape on our vacation.  And we were certainly enjoying the sunshine and the sound of the ocean and the morning birds on our walks.  I would smile at my silliness, take a deep breath and gaze out at that big, blue Pacific Ocean crashing up onto the shore.

Thump, thump, THUMP, comes another one.  Dammit.

What IS it about this running thing that appeals to people so much?  Every time I try it, I feel like my insides are pounding against each other harder than the ice cubes in a martini mixing glass.  My knees begin to shake and buckle and my ankles verge on the point of collapsing.  I can hardly believe there are people in the world who want to do the Badwater Ultramarathon;  you know, the marathon where you run 135 miles through the scorching desert of Death Valley in 130 degrees Fahrenheit, and then up the side of a mountain, all without stopping?  Yeah.  People do that.

But most people don't.

Some people are just born runners.  As a kid, even I recall the act of running as a sort of liberating feeling.  But I hated sports and would resent being forced to participate in races during sports day at school.  Other kids just loved it.  It seemed that if they could, they would keep running and running for hours and hours.  It was in their bones.  I remember in the 70's when running suddenly became the thing to do, and the sport has only grown from there.  Magazines dedicated purely to running were published, runners (as we used to call our shoes) became high tech footwear, water bottles were all the rage.  These days, people run competitively or they join running groups to stay in shape.  Some start running because they've had a lifelong ambition to do a marathon.  And almost every week you can see a promotion for some kind of "race for a cure" where people sign up and take pledges to run.

When I was working at a radio station in the promotions department years ago, I had to participate in a lot of PR events as part of my job.  One time, we had teams from all of the media outlets in the city racing as we pushed beds with wheels through the streets of downtown Victoria.  The others in my team were in much better shape than I was as we began our pursuit.  About a half a block into the race, I thought I was going to die.  The thing can't just start running at breakneck speeds without having at least trained a little bit.  But I didn't really consider that.

On another occasion, my daughter's little league team had an end-of-season picnic and barbeque, and the parents were made to form two teams to play a game so that the kids could watch us for a change.  On my only turn at bat, I hit a grounder and raced to first base as fast as my flabby legs could take me.  I was tagged out, and so were my legs for about a week after.  Ouch.

Sometimes I wonder if people are out there running in order to get that "runner's high" that everyone talks about.   According to my research, as it turns out, not everyone will get runner's high, and even if they do once it doesn't mean they will again.  So that can't just be it.  When I Googled running, I found website after website full of people devoted to it, but no matter how many breathless, happy posts I've read from enthusiastic runners, I still don't get it.

We plan on going back to Maui as soon as we can, and I know that in the meantime I'm going to have to change my attitude, either that or forfeit my otherwise enjoyable walks along Ka'anapali Beach when we get there.   However, I will leave you with a quote from this famous astronaut:

"I believe that every human being has a finite number of heartbeats, and I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises." 

- Neil Armstrong

Enjoying Ka'anapali Beach MY way