Saturday, January 05, 2008

Look Back, Look Ahead

I haven't been sleeping well at all. For weeks. I am wide-awake at 3 a.m. every single night. Sometimes I manage to fall back to sleep at 5, only to have the alarm go off at 5:30. It's not fun.

It happened again last night, and after tossing and turning for an hour, I said the hell with it and just got up. Wrote a few e-mails (to colleages at 3:30 a.m. ha!), read some news, hung around until it was light enough to head out for an 8-mile run. In some rather cold (28F) weather.

Came home and slept for three hours.

I wake in the middle of the night, and my brain goes on autopilot, through a litany of worries. Sometimes I write them down. That's supposed to help, but it doesn't. I worry about work, volunteer stuff, things I've said to people, situations that cause me grief, people I've pissed off, people I'm afraid I've pissed off, peole I want to piss off, stuff I should have done but didn't, health concerns. As I sit writing this, I'm worrying that I won't get enough sleep tonight, and I'm already worrying about things I need to do Monday.

I had an epiphany on my long run this morning: I'm going to turn 51 next month, and in all my years on this planet, not ONE single moment of worrying has resulted in anything good. Or in anything at all, really. I've spent 10 years working for the same organization, pretty much worrying the entire time that I am next up for firing.


That's a lot of worrying about something that hasn't come to pass (yet).

Some other things I've worried about:

  • In second grade, developed a fear that my mother would die during the day while I was at school. Teacher couldn't understand why I hurled every day and begged to go home. My mother had no tolerance for illness and couldn't stand a child staying home. So, as was probably for the best, though it felt cruel at the time, she packed me off to school each day. Not a single person ever asked me what the problem was. (Classic case of school phobia.) Eventually it stopped. Oh, and my mother is 84 and has been lingering on her deathbed now for a year. So much for that worry.

  • Then I spent grade school worrying that my parents would divorce. They did.

  • Throughout high school, college, and two graduate degrees, and my entire working life, I've worried that I'm not smart enough.

  • When I was selected editor of my high school school newspaper, worried I wouldn't know how to manage.

  • Lack of money has been a constant worry throughout my life. Somehow I seem to have managed though.

  • When my marriage ended, I was worried about so many things, but specifically about what my neighbors would think. I felt a complete failure. I remember one neighbor who found out coming over to comfort me as I sat on the front porch one evening. I was so relieved. Right up until he took out his Realtor's card and told me to call him when I was ready to sell the house. I have to tell you, I lost a lot of faith in people after that incident.

  • I grew up KNOWING that I could never, and would never want, to raise a child on my own. I was terrified by the prospect. And yet ... that's the position I found myself in. (When I say on my own, I'm not exaggerating. No family helped ever.) Yet, Number One Daughter is now 21. She is beautiful, a varsity athlete, Dean's List smart, went to school abroad and came back fluent, is popular, funny, organized ... stop me, please. Somehow, apparently I managed.

  • Always worry when meeting new people. I'm positive I'll have nothing to say, won't be liked.

  • Worry about pissing off my colleagues, or those I manage at work. I HATE to cause controversy, which is a tough thing for a manager to avoid.

I know I have an anxiety-prone personality. I take anti-anxiety medicine daily. What hit me this morning (I know, I'm slow) was how NONE of my worrying had helped one iota. It did however manage to suck a lot of the fun out of my life. And often still does.

What does all this worrying say about me? a) I don't trust myself to persevere, despite so much evidence to the contrary, and b) I surely don't trust God.

I have but one resolution for the new year. Just one.

I intend to change this long-established habit—because I believe that's what it is, a bad habit—of worrying. If I have to get professional help to do it, so be it.



peter said...

Be happy, don't worry. The answer is to move to the islands, Jeanne.

Really though, I think you've managed your life pretty well. Beautiful talented daughter (I've met her). Respected collegue at work (I've talked to a co-worker). Soldierd through adversity, have always maintained. What's not to feel inwardly good about? I don't much believe in God but I think you do, and she has had an awareness of you I think. The church you attend is splendid (I been there). And smart enuf? Your writing is brilliant. And you've gone from walking with a cane to running a WNHMQer! Just this week! Sweet. (When you coming out for the Reebok sponsored dcrrc powered WNHM Training Program and run with Jeannie? They went 8 this morning).

Anyway, when I get up at 3 am and start worrying (it happens) I go out for a 5-mile run on the lit streets. It's a great tonic. Might not be suitable for a woman though, unfortunately (women can never believe I do this).

Hang in there Jeanne! Keep motivating us!

Just12Finish said...

Since you asked :-) ...

Years ago I was sent to a seminar based on Steven Covey. Among several things, one that stuck with me all these years is the concept of our Cirlce of Influence and our Circle of Concern. You can find an excerpt here

It's been really good practical advice I've been following ever since. Good luck, and no, I'm not selling books or real estate or anything else :-)

Sunshine said...

I haven't been reading your posts and don't know whether you need to get professional help.. but I do know this.. The naming you did in your blog is good.
Best wishes.. and listen to Peter!

Susan said...

This is the best new year's resolution I have EVER heard. Go Jeanne!

21stCenturyMom said...

Talk about your New Years Revelation.

You suffer from having been beaten down all your life by your family, your life, whatever. And now you know that no one can win because you are the victor! You always have been. You're a rock star and all of your triumph over adversity, worry notwithstanding, proves it.

Happy New Year. Now get some sleep!

Juls said...

Sometimes I hear a siren coming from the direction that one of my family is in. I sometimes call them just to hear their voice and pretend that I am just checking in. But if they don't answer, it back fires on me. My worry increases and I redial over and over. *sigh*

Just think, if you didn't worry, what would you do with all of that free time? I ask myself that same question, yet when I try to let down my worry-guard, something happens. So it is hard not to worry.

I dream of a day when I won't have to worry so much, and I know that I will always find something to worry about. Oh well. As long as we find stuff to be happy about (like beautiful, well adjusted, confident, and good kids), then it will be just fine with me.

Juls said...

PS. You DON'T need professional help. You just put it out there for all to read.

David said...

You solved one problem: you know what your problem is. That's the first and most important step.

Ditto all that Peter said. You've got assets we can only imagine.

As for that sleeping thing, I find that if I try to rerun a race in my head and think of all the turns, hills and sights I saw along the way I can get lost in the memory, relax and fall asleep before the halfway point if not sooner.

BettyBetty said...

The worrying thing can eat you alive because it never resolves anything. I think you are on the right track in realizing that worry doesn't change anything, doesn't prevent anything, doesn't solve anything, doesn't get you what you want - it just sucks the life out of you. You'll get there---just keep running for sanity. I think David nailed it on the sleep issue. While having trouble falling asleep I used to run through my step aerobic routines when I used to teach and it would knock me out every time (not saying much for my classes). I've done it with my bike routes a couple of times. It really works.

Bex said...

That's the best New Year's resolution ever. Realize what you can change and what you cannot, be grateful for all the good things in life, and learn from the bad things.

IHateToast said...

i read a book of essays by barbara kingsolver. one was about divorce. i remember her reasoning that her marriage didn't "fail". it was just over. why do we have to say it failed. somethings run their course and, through no fault of anyone, they just end. by attaching the word "fail" to divorce, we make millions feel bad.

are you sure you weren't just tossing and turning because i'm sending you meat in the mail? strips of bacon and links of sausage? didn't you hint at wanting that?

Triseverance said...

Hang in there, I had a bout with the work worry last night. Sundays are always hard for me. Took half an advil PM. I have been able to use over the counter stuff for years to manage the stress and still get the sleep I need.

Running Chick said...

oh jeanne, how your post spoke directly to me! i totally relate and understand...and resolve to reduce the worry right along with you. i'm not medicated yet, but that's on my list of things to explore this month (for real). we can start a new group - WA - worriers anonymous. our first meeting can be via IM at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow. =)

LBTEPA said...

I emailed you about the worry thing - but the sleep thing - could it be because you're over-tired? Are you having a day off training during the week?

Eric Gervase said...

I had a spell like this a couple months ago (sleep problems, blogging at 3 am). I never did quite put a finger on it. But, I think it had something to do with over-training. I'm not a regular reader.. Are you ramping up recently? If so... maybe you need to take a recovery week? My two cents.

In regards to professional help... it's not something to be ashamed of. You have all the tools (you obviously know the struggles you have). Sometimes people need the help to get over the hump though. I don't know you .. I just don't think there is any reason to feel like help is weird or undesirable.

Vickie said...

The first part of your post sounds just like me. Constantly waking up at 3:30 am--and staying awake from worrying. Always worrying about something. I do however many times solve my problems, not necessarily by worrying about them, but by having that solitary time at 3:30 am to think and reflect on them. Unfortunately, I also waste a lot of time at that hour of the day because it really is too early to do anything or go anywhere and too dark to run outside at that hour, so I lay there while the clock ticks away and try to figure out how to handle my latest worry. You have, however, defined your list of worries far better than I would/could. Its our nature. I doubt much will change it.

Runner Susan said...

Jeanne, we are sisters from another mother.