When You’re Worried

A story about how a stranger on the street got me thinking about life and worry.

This morning, an old man approached me on the street and started talking to me as I was unloading some donations from my car. His clothes were ragged, he was missing most of his teeth and he was wearing coveralls and a flower covered baseball cap. As I was unloading my things into a donation bin, he started to tell me about his life. He told me about how he had gotten hit by a car as a child and that he had been in a coma for weeks. Years later, he said, that accident impacted his mental capacity. He continued to chit chat while I was going from door to door, unloading bags and boxes of donations. When I finished, I was going back into my car to leave he said he wanted to share something with me. He looked at me and he said,

“Regret looks behind, trouble looks to the sides, and faith looks up.”

As I left I got to thinking about what he had said and the truth of it. Whenever we invite regret, guilt, frustration, or anger into our lives, our focus is on our pasts. Those emotions are often rooted in a judgment and examination of people and events that have come and gone (what people said, what they did, etc.).

When we feel troubled, our focus is on some unknowable future. We are continually looking around ourselves and off into the distance, expecting something to jump out of the bushes and sabotage our plans.

When we are living in belief in ourselves and have faith in the path, we can allow ourselves to be present and truly in the moment, giving thanks for the experience and trusting our ability to keep moving. We “look up” because we are present with gratitude and giving thanks to the god of our understanding for getting us to where we are.

If our life was like a race, looking behind us or frantically looking around ourselves would not be helpful. In fact, those actions would likely drain our energy and bog down our progress. While it might seem most useful to scan the horizon anticipating obstacles and indulging in some worry, that approach is only useful if your worries are accurate and help you avert a crisis–but how often does that happen?!

When we indulge in worry about the future, we imply that we have some capacity to foretell our futures; to know exactly how something is (or isn’t going to pan out). What’s more, when we indulge in worry, it removes us from the present moment and all that is available to us in that space. It’s like running a race, worrying that the road ahead is going to be flooded and washed away and you’re so focused on that possibility that you don’t realize that you are running right past a life raft that could safely carry you across the path, if needed.

When we are stuck in worry, we ignore the gifts and solutions at our feet.

Worry is such a tempting emotion because it feels so important to our primitive brains. The part of our brains that is designed to keep us safe latches on to those worries and expands upon them. Suddenly, our thoughts about a washed out path, morphs into a hurricane and fire breathing dragon up ahead. When we allow ourselves to put energy behind those worries, we are often persuaded to stop running altogether, to change course, or to take a break until you figure it out. But we forget that those worries are only half of the possibility of what lies ahead–what if there was no hurricane or dragon up ahead and the path ahead is smoother and flatter than the path behind? Indulgence in worry overlooks the fact that it is equally possible that our worries are completely unfounded.

If life was like a race, isn’t our best approach to remain in the present moment not only so that we can see all the gifts currently being offered to us but so that we can focus our energy on the task at hand? We must stop looking behind, around or far ahead of us and instead allow space for us to consider–where am I even running to? When worry or regret drive the bus, it distracts us from the reason we started running to begin with. We forget why we started and instead lose all our energy to fruitless wanderings.

What is the benefit of the race if we can’t find space to be grateful for what we have, what we have learned, and to consider what we want next?

Today, challenge yourself to stay present, stop worrying about the future and instead reconnect with your WHY. Why are you running this race and where are you going?

Photo by Monstera from Pexels

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