27 December 2011, by A. Cedilla
Well, we’re there. The year’s almost over, and whether you say goodbye to it with a wistful, bittersweet smile, or let go with a sigh of mixed relief and sadness, when faced with a brand new year to fill, by golly, one can’t help but feel hope at the thought.
The past three articles deal with trying to see what you want to happen in your life in the next 12 months. Committing to a year-end review gives you a solid record of events on which to base your major moves for the next year. Knowing what you want to get out of your goals fuels you for the journey you’re about to take, and examining your general world-view helps you in the problem solving and anticipating stages.
The last article of the year deals with the aftermath of all that mental activity. The major points and their supporting details are in place, now it’s time to look for the loopholes and think about how it can go awry. Think of it as planned last-minute jitters.
In Anticipation Versus Worry, we drew a thick line between the act of anticipating a problem, and worrying about it. Today will include a little exercise that only requires about 15-30 minutes at the most, then another revisit some time later. Ready?
You now have blanket permission to wring your hands, pull at an earlobe, and to execute whatever nervous tic you most feel comfortable with while worrying. Before you do so, however, kindly have some different-colored pens and some clean sheets of paper handy, as well as the results from all the questions asked in the previous articles. Review those answers first, okay?
Done? Go. Worry your little black heart out. Write all your mental mosquitoes down. Then leave the list in a safe place and sleep unencumbered with the weight of all those pestiferous black thoughts buzzing at you. Sweet dreams.
Now pretend it’s tomorrow.
Or hell, just wait until tomorrow to go back to it. When you’re all fed and caffeinated, go back to the list. Use different colors to ID the following in your assessment:
- Which ones are based in reality? Not your fears, not your pessimistic outlook, but in real world fact and probabilities? Mark those.
- How likely are they to happen? ID the likeliest outcomes and the major players, the ones which can have the most impact on the outcome.
- What would you need to have or to do on your end to deal with them? This is a separate new list.
- What is required to deal with these things that you don’t have right now, but can find out about? This falls under that new list.
Offloading your worries on paper (or electronically) lets you let it all out and frees your mind from the pressure. Something in the act of forming your thoughts and writing them down clears you out mentally and emotionally, so write things down after talking it out in your head. Make a few tentative plans, then leave them alone.
Don’t get too hung up on the list. Leave it alone to marinate for a while, there’s still time before the year end’s, right? Oddly enough, when you come back to it, some of those worries would become trivial to your eyes. The list is just a record of what worried you that day.
When enough time has passed, a written record of you how much you worry can act as a tally, showing you how few of the things that worried you were really that stressfully important. Read it, and check to see how many of them you dealt with sensibly, which ones resolved themselves, or were actually inconsequential — it was just your emotions at the time that made them look bigger and insurmountable.
Worry is your mind making up stories to explain your feelings. You don’t know what to feel about this, you’re uneasy, and your helpful mind spins stories of how things can go wrong – and you, conscious you, believes that that’s how it will go like it’s already a done deal. Hey, imagination can trip you up as well as lift you up.
Just as the Zen masters say: Be still.
Stepping outside the boundaries of ego removes the pressure to impress other people with how important and moneyed and powerful and popular you are, or conversely, lifts the deathly fear of how spectacularly your path could go wrong.
Still yourself and get your ego out of your soul’s way.
The soul doesn’t feel the pressure of time, so you don’t feel it as much — you only see the heart of the matter. The soul doesn’t get the thing about being better than everyone, more loved than anyone, just being more than other people.
It doesn’t have to put people beneath it or pull others down to feel good, so pain gets out of the way. Ego gets out of the way. And when ego gets out of the way, big things can happen.
Worry is anticipated fear. Fear takes a lot of time and energy to feed it if you keep it running in the background, like a hidden program draining resources while you’re working. How much energy are you going to put towards fearing, when you can divert that energy towards actions that rule what you fear out of your life?
Now is all you have.
A well-lived life is composed of a series of thousands of well-lived days. Sure, you’ll still have your bad days, and you’ll still have your good days, but appreciating the good times help you carry on in the bad times. Take it one day at a time. When you start to worry again, take a step back and ask yourself, “What story am I telling myself this time?”
Anticipation looks both ways before crossing the road: “Where am I now? Where do I want to go? Where can it go from here ? Where can it go wrong ?” Worry keeps you looking out to check if the sky is falling, and you take your eyes off the road — and you know what can happen when you take your eyes off the road.
Good things and bad things come to everyone’s life. Take the lessons these things have to give you. Don’t be too uptight. Let the small stuff go, take care of the important details. Laugh every day. Get your blood pumping and take care of your joints. Learn to roll with the punches. When the circumstances change, be prepared to change with them. If you want something –really want something — respect your desire and back it up with action. And when you’ve got it or are doing it, and it seems too hard, or it feels like it’s not what you really wanted, keep going. It’s just beginner’s nerves
Things are never static… you keep learning, you stay open, you stay flexible. The way you look at life is gentler, easier, more respectful and humor-filled. You learn every day how to carry your life with grace. So try not to worry so much. It’s going to be alright. You’re going to be okay. You have a whole new year to fill, dude!
Have an awe-full New Year, everyone.
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