Is worry optional?
If you are a human being there are three things you must do. What are they?
1. You must take up space.
2. You must die.
3. You must worry.
That’s all. Just these three things. I can hear someone yelling at me that you have to breathe. No, you don’t. You can hold your breath right now and keep holding it until you fall over, pass out, and move on to whatever is next after being human (thus fulfilling the second thing).
It’s easy to do these three things. They’re automatic. If you sit there and do nothing, these three things will still happen.
Everyone has to take up space. You’re not able to shrink yourself to the point where you can’t be seen. Turning sideways as you look in the mirror may visually lessen the space you take up, but you are still taking up space.
Everyone has to die. No one can argue about this.
Everyone has to worry. Well — who would disagree with this one?
Dr Amy Johnson does.
On the back cover of her bestseller, Being Human: Essays on Thoughtmares, Bouncing Back, and Your True Nature, she says:
The basic, immutable nature of all human beings is well-being, clarity, and peace of mind.
That’s news to me. I worry more regularly than I breathe. I even dream worries most of the night, often in colour. Last night I dreamed my mechanic took the engine of my relatively new car to bits and said, waving a greasy hand at a pile of green, blue and yellow bolts on the workbench, ‘I can’t put it together again.’ Then I dreamed I fell off a wooden ledge — three times!
When I awoke this morning the whole worrisome day lay stretched out before me like a super runway lined with blinking red warning lights. I had to get out of bed straightaway because there was so much worrying to get through that the sooner I started the sooner I’d be done with today’s quota.
Maybe I sound a little bit like you. Perhaps, like me, you’re just a bundle of worries on legs.
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
But Dr Johnson says our default mode is a beautiful mixture of well-being, clarity and peace of mind. I’m skeptical, so I read the whole book. By the end I’m convinced she’s right.
At night our minds create nightmares. When the sun is up and our eyes are open our minds create thoughtmares. They’re just different forms of worry and they’re both illusions. She explains that when we worry we are:
. . . experiencing a whole mess of personal thinking which appears to cloud [our] perfect, natural state.
According to her, our naturally occurring calm state of being is:
‘masked by mental chit-chat.’
Ahh . . . calling our worries a mess of personal thinking and merely mental chit-chat lessens their importance.
Worry is overrated. We think that if we’re worrying we’re sorting things out, finding a way through our difficulties, solving the problems of the world.
But we’re not.
Worry is messy thinking. Worry is an endless mental roller-coaster. Worry is a waste of time.
There's no room for worry when we live with mindfulness.
From now on let's use our minds differently. We’ll still decide, plan and wonder, but let’s not worry. We don’t have to worry. Worry is optional. Worry is a habit our minds have acquired that we don’t have to buy into.
So, the good news is there are only two things you must do to be human — and worrying isn’t one of them!
Worry is optional.
First published on Medium.com