I never used to consider myself a worry wart, and most of the time, I still don’t. But as I get older, I feel myself becoming more anxious about the possibilities of the future. After graduating college, I remember my biggest revelation being something quite simple: anything can happen now. In school, life feels very systematic. But after I graduated and moved to Japan, I realized that the Real World lacked that same consistency — anything was possible, both good and bad.
I still aim to be optimistic about the future, and generally have positive thoughts about what might happen in my life. But from time-to-time I find myself getting worried, especially with friendships, relationships, and perhaps most considerably in terms of my dog. I’ve never had a “child” to take care of, so I’m always thinking about his safety and well-being. Though I don’t always show it, I have a deep sense of worry about what could happen to him — or maybe more realistically, what would happen to me if something happened to him.
The problem with worrying is that the things we worry about almost never even happen. It’s like we create an alternate reality where only the negative possibilities occur. And yet, that reality only exists because we made it so. I find strength in knowing that I have an unrelenting power to squash those fears and lean in hard to the positive circumstances of my actual, waking life.
Earlier this year, I read Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly (my review here!). Her phenomenal book centered on how we can go “all in” in our lives, which usually means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. In her book, she explains that we can’t love anyone or anything with all our heart if we allow fear any place in our relationships. If we’re worrying about what might happen — death, betrayal, etc. — then we’re not opening ourselves up completely, for fear that sharing that final piece of ourselves will destroy us if shit really does end up hitting the fan. But Brené argues that giving your whole self is the only way to build truly meaningful relationships and experiences. In her words, “There is no intimacy without vulnerability.”
Now, I don’t want to leave you with these thoughts without a solution. And lucky for the both of us, this one is simple. When you’re feeling that sense of worry, then the best thing you can do is replace it with gratitude. Be grateful for the moment you are given right now. Cherish the ones in your life, even if they may not be there next year. When someone gives you a piece of themselves, take it. Devour it. Be grateful that is was given to you, rather than fearful it may one day be taken away.
In Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, she says, “It’s gratitude that you should be feeling in place of jealousy and insecurity and fear. I encourage you to reach for that gratitude. It’s located just a stretch beyond the ‘crazed fire’ that’s burning in your head. Let yourself be gutted. Let it open you. Start there.”
Where will you start today, friend? What worries will you replace with gratitudes?
(photo via Tumblr)