I’ve been worrying too much lately. It’s not good for me. I do most of it at night, when the lights are out, and I wake up at 3 am, unable to sleep. My worries run the gamut, but they always start with my 4 children: from my daughter in Africa (Will she catch some horrible disease from an errant mosquito?) to my son on a farm in New York (Will he survive another 105 degree day of digging up garlic plants?) to my other daughter at a blue grass concert in Connecticut (Will she be caught in a stampeding crowd of drunken concert-goers?) to my daughter here, safe under my roof (Will she be able to handle this upcoming year in high school, with her 3 sports teams and band and outside-of-school activities?) to my job (Will I get everything done that is sitting on my desk?) to our finances (Never mind) to my health (Will I keep gaining weight or become an obese elderly woman that people pity and scorn?) to politics (Will Obama survive this nightmare? Will our economy? Will the world?) to religion (Is there a God out there listening?) back to my children (Why didn’t I brush their teeth more often? Damn those stupid fruit roll-ups that I thought were healthy! We won’t be able to afford the next 8 years of college! Do they have what they need to make it in the world after college? which leasds to: Did I give them any kind of spiritual basis to help them deal with their futures?) You get my drift. This is where things tend to go rapidly down hill into complete negativity. I’m sure I don’t need to put examples here. I’m sure most women over 50 know the kind of negative thinking you can do at 3 a.m., given a little energy and inclination!
I’ve heard from a very reputable source that you can create negative channels of thinking in your brain if you keep thinking the same negative thoughts—that you actually wear paths so that your negative thoughts become the easy trail through the woods that has the most markers! They say that your job is to stop those negative thoughts by wearing new paths.
I’m working on it. I’m trying to make myself say positive things to myself whenever I can: “The kids are healthy, and they have great teeth that they inherited from their grandmother!" or "It doesn’t matter that your house is a pigpen! You’re too busy getting your priorities straight to clean that back room!" or "You have willpower of iron! You are getting thinner every day!” or "The world is not falling into a heap of total and complete ruin, no matter how much the signs point to that scenario!"
As I said, I’m working on it. But it’s hard.
I’m not sure I’m capable of wiping out all negative thoughts. I can do it during the day. Just not at 3 a.m.
I do know one thing that helps: laughter. When I can laugh with my husband about something silly in the paper in the morning or guffaw over coffee with friends or die laughing with my daughters over a ridiculous movie like “Bridesmaids,” I feel better–and it carries forward into nighttime! When I go to bed after laughing a lot during the day, the wheels in my brain start turning in different directions—and, next thing you know, I wake up thinking about how great our kids are, or how incredibly lucky I am to have wonderful girlfriends in my life, even if I only see them once a week or once a month or once in a blue moon, or how terrific it is to be surviving this Recession with my husband, with our marriage intact—or how wonderful a scoop of Ultimate Ice Cream’s coffee heath bar tastes!
I have to watch out for that last one though: it can easily lead me back into one of those negative trails—the one full of worry about being a morbidly obese elder in a wheelchair!