I worry more, so I am more loving

This is another area that gets me into trouble with people: worrying. Or rather, that I do not equate worrying with loving.

My problem is, my threshold for worrying is different from most people. Even when I worry, I am usually trying to tell myself not to worry, and that worrying does not help. So I end up either not worrying, or pretending that I am not worried. This makes me get labeled by outsiders as a unloving mother/ spouse, whatever…

The trouble (for me) is, most people think worrying is a sign of love, and even more, that the extent of worrying is a measure of love.

When I was young, my parents loved me. They also worried about me. And every time they worried, they showed this worry to me as evidence of their deep love.  This love and worry combo continued till I was well past infancy, childhood, teenage.

When I was twenty-one, I got a job as a production engineer at a place in the same city, but a two-bus journey away, that took at least 1.5 hours to commute if I was lucky. The work-day ended at 5:30 pm, and so the earliest I could be home was 7:00 pm. Every day, without fail, my parents would be pacing the balcony and waiting for me from 6:30, and as soon as I entered, one of them would say, “Where were you? We’ve been waiting for you.” I would explain (yet again) about the buses, the minimum time, and they would nod, but the frowns would take time to go. When I protested at this unnecessary worry, they would say, “You don’t understand. We are parents, so naturally we worry. You will know when you become a mother.”

Well, maybe I didn’t become enough mothery as a mother. Yes, I did worry, but no, I could not figure out how such worrying was the same as loving my son.

What jolted me into understanding the unproductive nature of worry was an instance when my son was very late from school. The school authorities assured me the bus had left on time. I called up other parents, and found out that their offspring hadn’t returned, either. So I figured something had happened to the bus, but had no way of knowing. I paced, I worried. An accident? Children rushed to a hospital, and here I was, unable to do anything. When my son arrived, I had to bite my tongue to stop barking at him. Even so, I said, “What happened?” in a tone sharper than I intended. “Puncture,” he said.

What I remember distinctly is that surge of anger at him for having made me worry, and then the rush of insight that told me how absolutely stupid this whole worrying business was.  He had not asked me to worry–that was my choice. My reaction (not stated to him, thank God) was–so I wasted my time and energy worrying about him–showed that one part of me resented that nothing that happened that justified the worry. How absolutely horrible, how unloving. Worry, in essence, I realized at that instant, feeds on imagining the worst, and getting miserable over it and sending out negative vibes (if you believe in vibes type of stuff), and then…we call it love!

That incident did not cure me of worrying, but it definitely cured me of glorifying worry. Now if I catch myself fretting, I know that it is a negative, unproductive way of using my emotional machinery, and the faster I step out of it, the better for all of me and people around me. It may take me a few minutes, or a few hours, but I no longer feel self-righteous and superior about worrying.

That does get me into trouble with everyone around me, because people assume that as I am not pacing up and down and waiting for my son, or frowning too hard over his exam results or college admission, I don’t care for him or love him. “What sort of a mother are you?” some have said. If my husband should have reached home by 7:00 pm and he is not home till 8:00, and I am not found frantically calling him for filing a status report with me, that is seen as uncaring, even if I explain that he is obviously delayed, and delaying him further by engaging him in conversation will not help. He could be in a meeting, he could be driving. If there is a problem, he will call me. I usually fix a threshold for delay, and ‘worry’ only after that, and that makes me heartless.

The funny part is, everyone talks about how we should not get stressed. The world abounds with stress-relieving methods and exercises. Yet, we also, through language, comments, and behavior, encourage worry right from childhood.

We see a child playing cricket instead of studying for the exam, and may say, “You have an exam tomorrow, aren’t you worried?”, and this statement is synonymous to “You have an exam tomorrow, don’t you need to study some more?” or “You have an exam tomorrow, if you were a good, sensible, responsible  boy, you would be studying instead of playing.” Worry, used in this sense, is a mechanism that leads us to act appropriately, and express concern, and is good. The assumption is, we would not act properly if we weren’t worried…

Then we wonder why stress seems to be all around us 🙂

Just to clarify, I do worry. Quite a bit, at times. But I also worry that I worry, if you know what I mean. Maybe that makes it worse for me, at least others feel good about worrying…

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About Swapna Kishore
I'm a writer, blogger, and resource person for dementia/ caregiving in India. I have also been a dementia caregiver for well over a decade, and am deeply concerned about dementia care in India; on this blog I share my personal caregiving journey, my experiences as a resource person for dementia care, and musings on life, aging, dementia in India, and such sundries. More about me and the work I do for dementia care. For structured information on dementia, for discussions, tools and tips on caregiving issues, for resources in India, and for caregiver interviews, please check my website http://dementiacarenotes.in (or its Hindi version, http://dementiahindi.com). For videos on dementia caregiving (English and Hindi), check the youtube channel here.

2 Responses to I worry more, so I am more loving

  1. austere says:

    Oh I worry only about the big stuff- global economy, stock market,etc etc.

    Quite liked your concept of worry threshold.

  2. Sudheer says:

    Nice post.

    Keeping a positive mental attitude helps avoid falling into mental traps like worrying unnecessarily.

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