Saturday, March 2, 2013

Worrywartitis and a Storm Called Rocky

I tend to be a worrywart and when I heard the predictions last Monday, it was all I could do to keep from freaking out. We had just weathered a storm that dumped a foot of snow on us and then the models were calling for another six to twenty-two inches with thirty-mile-an-hour winds. I kept telling myself they could be wrong.

No amount of self-reassurance could keep me from worrying. I was awake more than asleep on Monday night as the storm raged. My cell phone said “light snow” but the wind-driven snow was anything but light.

By morning, I knew I’d be foolish to head out to work in the storm. Monday evening, we arranged to have some of the office staff picked up and taken to work. It was a good thing because we had major power outages at the electric cooperative where I work.

I was able to make some phone calls from home to help a little, but the brunt of the work fell on other staff, and, of course, the linemen who braved the blizzard to restore power to the people sitting in cold, dark homes.

As the storm named Rocky raged on, we became more aware of the damage. Nearly two-thirds of our system was in the dark.

I made it to work on Wednesday, and the rest of the week was a blur of calls and stories of how people coped without power—some of them for four days. The calls ranged from one extreme to the other—pleasant understanding to unbridled anger. The longer the outage lasted, the more exhausted our employees were and the more frustrated the members became.

Many conversations stuck with me, but I think the one that hit home the hardest was the lady talking about an elderly couple who were staying in town. They wanted to go home. She said, “He has serious health problems and didn’t bring enough medication. She gets so upset when things don’t go right. You know how people can get.”

“I certainly do,” I said. “I’m the same way. When something doesn’t go right, I get upset.”

The tension was broken as we had a laugh about human nature.

Throughout the week, I thought of the message Pastor Jim gave on Sunday. He said fear has many names and one of them is worry. I’m not sure where he got the statistics he quoted, but they made perfect sense to me.

Jim Downing said that forty percent of what we worry about never happens. I would say looking back at what I worry about, that’s probably a little low for me. But then, I’m a worrywart so it stands to reason that my personal fruitless worrying would be higher than average.

Thirty percent of worrying is about the past and can’t be changed. I saw an example of that when one of the employees asked me if she could take off next Monday. She needed to watch her grandchild, but she was afraid that she would be needed at work. I put it on the calendar and told her, “Sometimes family just has to come first. It took me a long time to realize that and I missed a lot of events because I put work first.” With tears in her eyes, she relayed a story of when she put work first and had never stopped regretting it.

Twelve percent is over criticism. I used to get my feelings hurt easily, but I outgrew that. I think to overcome worry about what others think of me, I’ve acknowledged that I’m not perfect and some people cannot be satisfied. I can’t do much about those who criticize me, but I can either use the criticism to improve myself, or if it’s unwarranted, let it die. I learned a lot about criticism this week.

Ten percent of worry is over health—yours or a loved one’s. I think we worry more about our loved ones that ourselves. One time I needed surgery and Jim kept insisting I tell my mother. I wanted to tell her when it was over. He couldn’t handle the stress on his own and he called her! I know that Jim’s dementia worried me more than it did him.

Eight percent of our worries are about real problems. Sometimes, worry can be a positive thing because we prepare ourselves. Some of those who worried about the storm used their concern as a springboard to prepare. They arranged a place to stay; they fired up generators or wood stoves. They became ingenious and went into survivor mode. Sure, they were as inconvenienced as anyone else, but they found a way to make the best of a bad situation. One woman fired up her grill to melt snow water to flush her toilet.

I wish I could say knowing the statistics means I’m now worry free, but it doesn’t. As long as snowstorms are wicked enough to have names, many of us will worry. Action does help alleviate some of the worry, along with faith and trust in a higher power.

Copyright © by L.S. Fisher, March 2013

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