Let the Worrywarting Games Begin!

7:30 AM

I don’t know what it is about being seven that makes one cynical. My distinct impressions of those years are indistinct—a sort of box seat view of life played out on a stage. Anything that almost hit me missed by a long shot. So it was that when I viewed Jurassic Park III (in theaters), I found more concern in my brother’s sleeping friend than in the fact that a spinosaurus chased unarmed humans around an overrun island. To me, the people committed too many crimes of stupidity to earn my sympathy, or interest.

Life was like that—distant, vague, impersonal. I played Barbies with my best friend on the front lawn, climbed the smooth tree four houses down and crawled through the bush tunnels after Finder, the striped lost cat Rusty and I adopted. (He wasn’t lost, it turned out, and his name was Skittles. I was devastated.)

But as I grew older, something changed from a carefree seven-year-old to a world class worrywart.

I watched Jurassic Park III (in the comfort of my own home) the other day, at age seventeen. I mutilated the ugly gray pillow I clung to during the movie. I felt the fear of being chased by a spinosaurus. I thought the worst of everything, just so I wouldn’t be caught by surprise. Thrillers are horribly hard on the nerves.

There’s a science to thriller movies, by the way: the main characters always live, unless it’s a hardcore horror where the plot trumps the characters; however, if a main character crosses the main main character, he’s doomed to at least supposed death (you’ll get the hang of interpreting the haggard doom in his eyes); the secondary characters get killed off violently before the middle of the movie; the children never die; and the ending will be happy. Remember that and you can save many pillows from the fate mine suffered.

But life isn’t like that. There aren’t cliché endings or worn-out plot twists, like landmarks, that we can decode to figure out our destiny. Our story is raw. And so it is that there’s a chance it will turn out like everyone else’s or be entirely new—both very frightening prospects.

In short, we don’t know. We can’t know. And like the Bailey who watched the first Jurassic Park movie without the handy guide to thriller movies, we freak out over the tiniest things.

Let the worrywart games begin!

I’m a pro at worrying. Not only do I worry about imminent, unavoidable things like that consumer math test or getting the overdue library books back, but I also worry about things that aren’t guaranteed to happen. I can whip out several alternate endings to such things, so thoroughly have I worried them out. I’ve already mourned my first marital argument and survived dying in the hospital after a car accident.

But I go further—I can worry through things that aren’t even probably going to happen. I see a plane fly overhead and immediately go to worrying about what would happen if terrorists dropped bombs on my house…or what if I got lockjaw…or how I would alert my sisters if I had a heart attack in the middle of the night. Routine business, you know.

Ironically, I worry about things as a security blanket for the future. If I’ve got my fear all wrapped up in possibles and probables, I feel I can handle things. I can survive. I will survive. It’s like The Incredibles, where the bad guy creates chaos just to swoop in and prove his heroism. We fear our weakness more than anything, so we mentally test ourselves to dregs of courage in case we’ll ever be brought that low.

In my better moments, I ridicule world class worrywarting. It’s insane. It’s comical. And it’s dangerous. It gets around even the most inspirational Scripture and finds a hole in the very promise and person of God.

So trained am I for the worrywart games that simply not worrying does not help. Thinking happy pink pony thoughts and praising abstract blessings can’t combat the allure of worrywarting. Worrywarting, in its purest form, trains us to think that bad things are more prevalent (or at least more inevitable) than good things, that the possibilities of God winning and good triumphing are slim. True, it makes life interesting. Thriller movie writers exploit that, you know.

But it doesn’t present the total picture of life. Not many people run into dinosaurs or terrorists. In fact, the most amazing thing about life isn’t that there are so many bad things but that there are so many good things. My mental muscles work on those good things, the inevitable, concrete blessings of God. I’m at a point now where I can let go of things—things like losing that essay contest, the one I thought I had in the bag. It was two days after the deadline for announcing finalists.

Not strangely, the day I had felt disappointed and then shrugged my shoulders, knowing that the sun would still rise the next day, I got a call from the contest organizer. He was late in announcing finalists, of which I was one. Good thing I didn’t waste the day worrying.

Not to say that worries don’t come true or that dreams always will—merely to say that there’s at least an equal chance of good things happening. But don’t dream too hard, or you will start worrying about what will happen if they don’t—or worrying about worrying—or worrying about whether you should worry, which is worse.

In any case, watching movies about dinosaurs before bedtime does not cure a case of the worrywarts. Just saying.

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6 impressions

  1. I cannot tell you how blessed I am by your posts. Really, I cannot! Thank you so much for all the effort and work you put into writing this. I'm so glad I've found your blog. :)

  2. Oh my goodness, you worry about having heart attacks in the middle of the night too??? I thought I was the only weird one who imagined heart palpitations, and how my family would react when they found me dead the next morning. So,thank you for saving me from a life of wondering whether I should submit myself to the aslyum! And I know just what you mean about having alternate endings out. I do that so much, I rehearse different ways imaginary conversations could go. Not that they actually ever come true...

  3. Yikes...the part about the car accident/hospital was rather familiar to me somehow. :P (Must have to do with all those scary videos at Driver's Ed.)

  4. My brothers have it all figured out about the good guys never dying. When they are playing good guys and bad guys, one will 'shoot' another, only to be told, "I'm a main character. I can't die."
    I tend to worry too. Sometimes it's fun, you know, imagining how heroic you'd be? Then I have to remind myself that it would hurt and I'd be complaining and miserable, not happy and heroic, if, say, my hand got cut off in a machine or something.

  5. Ah, the thriller movie plot. Yes. Wouldn't it be great if someone (or me) made a movie where the "main characters" died, then the secondary characters had to emerge out of the background and prove their heroism?
    Anyway. I went through several episodes---in fact, a whole phase---where I was afraid of dying. I think I was about eleven or twelve, maybe. On three separate occasions, I woke up in the night and found my heart was racing. I panicked, which made my heart race faster, which worried me even more...and so on. With trembling footsteps I crept in and woke my mother, and all she had to do was calm me down. I don't know what caused those episodes, but worrying sure didn't help!
    To be continued...

  6. At about that time period, I became over-sensitive to every little ache and pain. I did spend nights worrying about dying in my sleep. I probably had a simple case of hypochondria.
    These days, death has been relegated to the "it won't happen anytime soon and is not worth being nervous about" category. I am not overly concerned about my health. But I do sometimes worry about leaving behind a meaningless life. (That thought deserves a little bit more than a worry, doesn't it?)
    The thing about worrying is, it keeps us from doing the good things. If one is worried about something, it should be confronted instead of avoided. And it should be surrendered to God.
    When I worried about my mother's impending C-section, worry fled when God reminded me that nothing happens outside of His Perfect Plan. He has it under control.
    We should trust Him. :)


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