On my phone, in my Notes app, I have a note labeled “Worry List.”
In general, I don’t consider myself to be that much of a worrier, but like every human, I have issues that concern me and threaten to rob me of my serenity and joy. The way my brain works is that when I take something buzzing around my mind, and “park” it somewhere outside of my mind (like on a list), I feel like it’s being somewhat “managed” and in some ways, it frees me up to focus on other things instead.
So a couple of years ago, I decided to create a “Worry List.” When I found myself ruminating about a matter, I’d park it on my list and get it, temporarily, off my mind. Also, putting it in a short list entry somehow minimized and shrunk it, and made it feel more normal and less overwhelming.
But I wasn’t feeling great about the worry list. I felt like keeping a list of worries would be depressing. So I made myself two rules: One, each time I added a new worry to the list, I’d also add one thing to the bottom of the list that made me happy. So one worry entry, one gratitude entry.
Also, I started noticing that when I’d open my worry list to add a new one, I’d scan the list and realize that some of the items didn’t belong on the list anymore — either because the issue had been resolved, or, more often, because while the issue hadn’t really changed, it didn’t plague me the way it used to. Meaning, it hadn’t changed, but I had. So my second rule was that each time I noticed this, instead of just deleting the outdated worry, I’d move it to a third category, called “Things I Used To Be Worried About.”
The reason this was so critical is that looking at a list of things that used to plague me, but no longer did, served as a powerful reminder of something we all know, yet usually fail to feel: this too shall pass.
Just to give you a peek, my worry list on a given day might look like this:
The “Things I Am Worried About” category would contain entries such as various family members’ difficulties, global issues like Covid-19 and harsh global polarization, or personal issues such as my own aging or personality defects.
The “Things I Used to Be Worried About” category would include any of the above that I feel at peace with now. I have let go and let God. I am serene about the fact that I cannot control or manage these issues, and that I am strong enough to handle their outcomes, even if those outcomes were not my preferred option. I have adjusted expectations and no longer have an agenda for situations I can’t change. Sometimes, as I said, issues have resolved and turned out well, and it turned out that worrying was a waste of time and energy (it always is).
Finally, the “Things I Am Grateful For” section currently contains the following entries: my husband, some new furniture we bought that I really love, my job with Momentum, my ability to take a short vacation recently.
Then yesterday, something astonishing happened.
I opened my Notes app on my phone to a different note, and my Worry List caught my eye. I opened it just to remind myself of what was on it, and I saw that there was only one entry in list #1 (the other lists contained 3 and 4 entries). I read the worry and realized that I was no longer worried about this issue, not because it was better, but because I was better. Not because it had changed, but because I had changed. Not because the person I was worried about was serene, but because I am serene.
I moved my one worry to the list “Things I Used To Be Worried About” and for the first time in the history of my worry list, I have no worries. Is my worry list obsolete? Should I worry?