PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Trouble..... Oh Trouble Set Me Free.....

Whenever I think of a movie that personifies letting go of our deepest and darkest sadnesses, I think of Harold and Maude. So it isn't any surprise that the title of this blog sprang up as lines from a Cat Stevens song.

I caught myself today worrying. Worrying about a situation with a friend who likes to engage in a lot of passive-aggressive stuff, and how it hits all the buttons in me to freak out and worry worry worry. Those less involved might question the use of the word "friend", but I'm letting that slide by like a puck on the ice. I envy my husband, to some extent, because he just doesn't care. He has a very good buffer between himself and the world, and he even has really mean people in the duck world who say mean, shitty things about him, things that would keep me up at night, figuring out how to "win" the battle. I was never conditioned to have much of a buffer. I've got my own, it's got Teflon hammered on to it, and it looks a little rough for wear, but there are still things that slip by, and usually the more personal and painful, the easier they get through.

So I took my lunch break to write out what I do when I'm being sensible. It turns out, I ask myself about five questions, to help put the inner Worry to rest.

1. Is the time to worry about (this problem) right now?
2. What is the worst-case scenario?
3. Does this situation involve another person’s thoughts, feelings, actions?
4. How much “real estate” is this taking up in my brain right now?
5. What outcome do I really want?

Now, how to handle the answers to those questions! Using a more detached, realistic approach.
Thought Process Guide:
1. Is this happening now? If the time to handle a problem isn’t right now, then it isn’t time to worry. Worrying is the illusion that you can control the problem before it happens. But telling me not to worry is like telling a chicken to start speaking Esperanto. So, let’s just acknowledge that worrying is a part of who I am, and let’s work to minimize its impact on my life.

2. Worst-Case Scenario? I used to have a boss who dealt with my high, keening worry about mistakes by asking me three questions: “Did the agency lose money?” “Did the client lose money?” “Did anybody die?” There was only time I remembered the answer was “Yes,” to any of those questions (and it was another person’s error, costing the company $40k.) Nobody lost their job. Nobody died. A math professor used to tell me, “Five hundred years from now, none of this will matter.” Well, it’s important to keep perspective. But for the sake of giving this Worry Project due diligence, let’s just imagine the worst-case scenario, and 9 times out of 10, I bet nobody dies.

3. Is there another person involved? Once there’s another person in the picture, you automatically lose 50% of your ability to influence the situation. Sometimes more. You simply cannot control another person, no matter how hard you try. Let go of what you can’t control.

4. How much real estate to give it? Worry is like a furnace. It can be stoked, fired up, added to and fueled until it’s a blazing, consuming bonfire and our minds can’t think of anything else. Take an honest inventory of how much brain power you’re currently devoting to this worry. Is it worth your precious brain cells? Really? Can you at least cut the real estate in half, as a gift to yourself?

5. What's my ideal outcome? Inevitably, I want things to just be “ok”. To not have anyone mad at me, to not fail, to not have to fight, sometimes to win, to be right. Every single one of those wishes has a price, and it’s one I have to pay. Is it worth it? Especially if the time isn’t right now, if it involves another person, and it’s not benefiting me to keep ruminating on the subject.

My thought in this is that my inner Worry requires something. It doesn’t just go off and sit in a corner and wait very well. In fact, trying to ignore it only makes it more anxious, and it interrupts what I’m trying to focus on doing. To acknowledge I need a process, I’ve developed these five questions as a way to placate and calm the inner Worry. So much of what I want to do is “be prepared”, like I fear on some level I don’t have the self-confidence to handle a situation if I haven’t pre-loaded every scenario and run through it. Sure, it’s good to rehearse some things. It’s good to know how to defend your position and be prepared in many business situations. It even helps to run through things when you want to talk to someone about a personal issue, just so you sort out some of the emotionally charged verbiage and you can have your words heard more clearly. But I don’t need to borrow trouble. The day to worry about this isn’t today. I’ve had so much experience worrying, I need to remind myself that when that day comes? I’ll knock it out of the ballpark. I can worry with the best of the best. I’m platinum, or even AmEx Black when it comes to worry. So, Worry, you who sits inside just behind my ear and likes to whisper, we’ve walked through all this and it’s time to go be quiet. Just for today. If you’re still worried tomorrow, we’ll take five minutes and go through these questions again.

OK, since I'm being all 5-steppy and self-help-ey, I'm going to end with something positive. Going back to my beloved Harold & Maude, the movie ends with Harold playing the banjo on a mountainside, to the song "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out". (I know, I know. I've totally inspired all 14 of you to put this in your Netflix queue, simply with the word "banjo".)

Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
cause theres a million things to be
You know that there are

And if you want to live high, live high
And if you want to live low, live low
cause theres a million ways to go
You know that there are

You can do what you want
The opportunity's on
And if you can find a new way
You can do it today
You can make it all true
And you can make it undo
You see ah ah ah
Its easy ah ah ah
You only need to know

Well if you want to say yes, say yes
And if you want to say no, say no
cause theres a million ways to go
You know that there are

And if you want to be me, be me
And if you want to be you, be you
cause theres a million things to do
You know that there are


Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
cause theres a million things to be
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are
You know that there are

We do know it. We just need to remember it. Sing out. Be free. I'm putting Cat Stevens on my iTunes right this second.....
posted by PlazaJen, 12:51 PM