Friday, January 2, 2009

Borrowed anxiety

It is amazing how a little outdoor work first thing in the day can clear the senses and sharpen the mind. Or at least convince me that I am better off INdoors writing clever and brilliant (have I told you about my aunt?) things on my secret blog. Two more days until I'm back behind the gym for a week. Urk.

But I wonder how much of this stuff is really good, healthy or worthwhile. I can prepare for next week by doing some pretty basic stuff - making a schedule, planning my meals and my meetings, making sure I know where the Sunday night meeting is so I can get phone numbers and make plans for the next night, that kind of thing. But more than that is really borrowing anxiety.

In the world of mental health professionals, the term "projection" is generally used to describe what happens when a person perceives his or her own feelings/issues/agendas in another. An angry person tends to see others as angry. A jealous person tends to see others as jealous. You get the idea.

In the world of 12-step recovery, we talk about "projection" as more like living in the future, almost like anticipating a scenario or outcome, but more so. We live in the anticipated situation, missing out on what's going on around us in today's world. We get so worked up over what we think is going to happen and how we're going to respond to it and how that's all going to play out, that before we know it, the day's gone and we've accomplished nothing besides this new hole in our duodenum. Fat lotta good that exercise did us.

This is sort of what I have been doing about the coming week. I've been fretting over it. Only that's all I can do, and so far it has accomplished not a damned thing, save given me a case of the grumpies and a mild headache.

In meetings we talk about the Serenity Prayer, and it's a good one.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

In meetings, we generally only use the first stanza. The rest of it talks about concepts that lead to debate and philosophical and religious conflict (sin, the afterlife, a male deity, etc.) that not all members espouse. So we keep it simple. We ask for serenity to accept, courage to change, and wisdom to know A from B.

So this week coming up - what about it is beyond my control - a thing I cannot change? Well, everyone else's behavior is beyond my control, as are their feelings. The job itself is beyond my control, in a sense. I do not know what is behind those punky tiles, and I cannot know until I get down there and start digging. Therefore, fretting about it from here does not good, so I must let it go. I must let go of the fussing I've been doing regarding my aunt and her behavior, thoughts, and feelings. I cannot change them, ergo, I must accept them. (Note: accept does not mean endorse or approve of, it merely means to accept, without judgment.)

What can I change? Me. I can change how I think and how I feel and how I behave and what I say. I am about the only thing I have any control over, and even then there are things beyond my reach. My heart beats without my authority. My lungs operate without regard to my wishes. The chemical processes of my body march dutifully on whether I give permission or not. My realm of control is really in my heart and in my head. I can choose how I am going to think, feel and behave. Doesn't mean I always remember that. Doesn't mean I always make wise choices. Just means that I'm the only one accountable for that stuff.

I had a sponsor years ago who advised that I hold a mirror up to my nose so it touched. What I saw in that mirror, he said, was what I had authority over. Everything else, was none of my business. It could be my concern, but it wasn't my business to go meddling in. He was right.

I've been stewing all week about that damned tile job. I've been fretting about the tile, the client, the wet plywood, the tools, the stairs, money, and all kinds of things. Beyond making a couple of pretty good lists, what action can I take that will contribute to this situation in a productive manner? Not a thing.

OK, then. It is time to let it go.

What can I do today that will help my world? I can go to the bank, I can pay the rent, I can finish that shelf I'm making for a friend, and I can make a list of clothes and personal stuff I am going to need for this trip. Beyond that, I must let it go so it does not consume me.

An old-timer once said that worry is like rocking in a rocking chair. It keeps you busy, but you don't get far. It is simplistic, but it is true. Once I have done all the preparatory work I can, I have to step back and let go. I will get there when I get there. I will deal with stuff as it presents itself. In the meantime, I will enjoy today and what it has to offer me.

Blessed be.


Bull said...

Excellent post, Dawn. Been dealing with plenty of worry/anxiety myself, and you are right on about span of control.

I like the rocking chair analogy. I usually fall back on a quote by Charlie Papazian (homebrewers know who I'm talking about) - "Worrying is like paying interest on a debt you might not even owe".

I hope your week among some of us Mass-holes goes well.

Snave said...

Well, like they say, "Love thy Niebuhr."

Good post. I also have been under work- and finances-related stresses. Being OCD (obsessive-compulsive) I tend to worry excessively about things whether they are important or not.

The mirror tool: thanks! I will use that one.

msladydeborah said...

First of all, I wanted to thank you for your words of encouragement on my recent post. I appreciate your concern and I hope you did your exam.

The first piece necklace I ever received from my mom was a tiny pair of praying hands with the words to the Serenity Prayer on the back. I memorized that prayer and still say it whenever I am stressed or realize that there is nothing that I can do about a situation. I was an adult before I learned that origin of that prayer.

We all live only one day at a time. Even though we plan ahead, look forward to events happening, we have live through the current day.

Take things in stride Dawn.
Enjoy today, prepare for tomorrow and remember that you are equipped to handle whatever comes your way.

Anonymous said...

So, you know what to do with whatever's behind there, so it doesn't matter anyway. And you're good and you're thorough. What's to worry? Chill, kiddo. Give your aunt the gift of taking care of you, if that's what she likes. That's how I used to deal. And go to your meetings. You'll be cool.


A Spot of T said...

Whoa! That prayer actually kind of brought a tear to my eye. I'm going to print it out and keep it near. Because some days just aren't as good as others and...I don't just makes sense to me.