Why being present > worry

Howdy friends.  Today it occurs to me that I can legitimately count down without thinking about it! Numbers are my thing, amazing magic poetry that always resolves if you know how to manipulate it, with constants that plug into diverse formulae. What’s that about?! Okay, but I digress. The countdown!

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Today is April 26th, 2013. Gasoline is $3.69/gallon. Apple blossoms are on the trees, and the cherry tree is snowing on the front porch. My broccoli starts are ready to go into the garden, and the dahlias uncovered from their over-winter blanket. Gay marriage and marijuana are legal in Washington State. And today is 28 days from my last day of work. A few days short of a month away from hoisting sails for Alaska. Less than 4 months from my first day of medical school!

So many things to do, so much to sort out and accomplish over the next 4 weeks. Hire and train a new office manager at work. Sort out and pack things to move, separate from the things to bring with me for summer. Paperwork for school while I’m still around internet. Logistics and formalities for my summer job. My mind is scrolling in lists. Each day that I cross something off, one more “big” stress that I can finally set down, it feels like gaining back 5% lung capacity, 5% mood elevation, and 10% heart. I am highly stressed in the most beneficial ways.

Every couple of days I let my head fall back and thank the Universe that I’m not a worrier. This is usually half a moment behind my becoming aware that I’m worrying. As funny as it sounds, I’ve already done this a handful of times lately. Worry is something I have seen so many of my friends, family, patients, and colleagues do, sometimes to a debilitating degree. It can become so ingrained and ubiquitous in a person’s character that they are described as a worrier. As to say that’s what you would notice about that person if you met him/her. Aren’t people amazing creatures?! This soul’s ride through a human body can so easily dwell in cerebral hemispheres! Self undoubtedly included! Worry is not something we see in other species to a fraction of the degree in humans, and yet so many of us adopt it with every cell. Worry becomes a conditioned response. Pavlovian. Incredible! These sorts of things usually get me asking questions about this mind-vehicle we’re all in, most especially, are we riding or driving? Observing a person’s most apparent traits, what they are most comfortable representing to others, and trying to see what light that sheds into their deeper self, I inevitably find these traits in myself as well. Worry is no exception!

Of course I’m not free from worry. I’m not that zen. Yet.

I aim to be. Worry doesn’t serve me. I don’t wind up ahead when I over-think things. In grade school I recognized that I miss more questions on multiple choice tests when I second guess myself and change an answer. Trusting my gut (which has a mind of its own) usually leads me forward, and if I’m listening closely, rarely leads me wrong. So why should I worry?

But then the list gets long and the time gets short. Tasks stack up, responsibilities call, and plans being to form as vague outlines with blanks that can’t yet be filled. This is when I start to worry.

Most often these things build up gradually over time. So slow sometimes that I don’t recognize the worry building until I don’t recognize myself. I start to feel uncomfortable in my own skin. Worry takes over. But you know what’s cool? Usually being consciously aware is all it takes to reverse the process. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Being present is shockingly hard and surprisingly easy. Nights like tonight I can sit in the yard feeling mellow, eating my dinner, watching the sunset and be perfectly happy to sit feeling the warmth. Other nights (especially when waiting for an acceptance letter) it’s hard to keep from being a passenger in the mind-car, getting whisked away sudden and often, feeling out of control.

Like I said, I’m so happy I’m not a worrier. I have not mastered this grounding presence, and am still prone to getting caught up in the whirlpool of my mind. Fortunately, this is not a prevalent tendency for me. Details of the day come and go, each moment replaced by the next, new information to process and feel. With so many experiences to be had, I’m not the type to spend a lot of time evaluating and re-evaluating each and every one. I look for the good ones. Savor them.

And when the stress builds, my goal is to savor those too. Balancing the pull with visions of the big picture. And maybe someday I’ll hop in the drivers seat, and steer my way into bliss. :)

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Productivity

What is today, Wednesday? Somehow it doesn’t feel like it.

After a busy, fun-filled weekend, and filling my Sunday night with too much phone time, I’ve put myself too far behind on sleep already. After only two days of lectures this week, I still manage to feel like it should be Friday. It’s amazing what sleep-deprivation does to a person, especially an 8-hour-per-night person like me. But last night after another (long) phone call, my morale was given a kick-start back into productivity. I caught up on emails and little notes that have been cluttering my mind. Today I filled in my course reviews, checked on the status of my pillow delivery, and attended the Staff Student Liaison meeting. Now I’m able to sit down with my blog, (almost) guilt-free, bathroom smelling of clean laundry that’s hung to dry, agenda-notes email sent off to the class, dishes washed, contacts out.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, arguably the best American holiday of the year, and although most of my classmates don’t celebrate regularly, a few of us are having a dinner. I will be hosting 5 of my classmates for a “traditional” meal of roast duck, mashed potatoes and carrots, stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce, and Spanish pumpkin pie. We are a diverse group from different backgrounds and nationalities, but I am excited to celebrate, not only the day, but the people I will be sharing it with.

I’m thankful to be on this adventure to England. I’m thankful for the wonderful friends I’ve made, who will no doubt be friends for life. I’m thankful for my partner, who I won’t have to miss anymore in a few short weeks. I’m thankful for a program that challenges and excites me all at the same time. And I’m thankful that tonight I will go to sleep before 2am.