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Worrying half your life away
dennis Wyatt web
Dennis Wyatt

Millie Wyatt was a worrier.

My grandmother, according to almost everyone who knew her, worried constantly. She worried about how well the hardware store was doing that her husband had founded and was being run by her three sons. She worried about the trains that passed within a block of her home day and night. She worried about nuclear war. She worried about whether the rain would spoil an upcoming excursion. You name it, and she worried about it.

Her constant worrying drove my mom nuts.

It finally prompted Mom to tell her mother-in-law something she had thought better of for the first 10 years of marriage to her son.

"All that worrying really has paid off, Millie Wyatt," is what my mom related that she said.

"What do you mean, Verna?" my grandmother reportedly responded.
"None of it has ever happened," mom said she shot back.

Mom said Grandmother Wyatt had kind of a blank look on her face and then, minutes later, expressed concern that the screens may have been put up too soon on the summer porch.

The exchange took place after a four-hour Sunday visit in 1962 where apparently Grandmother Wyatt, according to my mother, had set some sort of a personal record for worrying.

It was an exchange mom repeated over and over again through the years. I never really remember much about Grandmother Wyatt except that she struck me as looking a tad like George Washington and was always insistent that we got a popsicle the second we got to her house and then immediately sent us outside for the duration.

At first I thought Mom was somehow proud about standing up to a woman that she said had a rain cloud over her head all of the time. But as I got older her point hit home: There is no percentage in worrying.

A little worrying, like a little fear, is natural and healthy.

It is what keeps us following basic traffic laws, not putting our hand on a hot burner, or playing baseball with a glass jar.

But just like being consumed with fear can paralyze you, so can worrying non-stop. The emotions are from different spectrums of the rainbow but they both end up doing the same things - making you paranoid, tepid, and unable to savor life that is in front of you.

In the past month, at various times I've found myself sharing the exchange between my Mom and her mother-in-law with my grandkids.

Like most people under 25 they are impatient to get to where they want to go in life. And they worry quite often about why it is taking them so long, whether they will get there, if they can pay their bills - you get the picture.

Everyone worries to a degree. But if you let worrying get you in a chokehold, you never fully appreciate what life offers. The cool thing about life is you don't have to win the Super Lotto jackpot, travel across Europe, be a millionaire, play in the NFL or be a super model to be happy. You don't even have to achieve the dream that drove you when you were 18.

Worrying that you are never going to achieve your dream is downright myopic. Actually, it's a bad addiction. Worrying is an emotional drug that not only does not get you where you think you want to go but it almost always assures you'll never be happy.

Worrying, as my mother noted, always "pays off" as the stuff we worry about doesn't happen most of the time. And even if it does happen, is there much of anything we could of done to avoid it from happening? We can't stop the rain. We can't control some crazy. We can't get other people to do our exact bidding. So why spend all the emotional capital and time worrying?

You reach goals by doing things and not by worrying.

The future is the great unknown, just as what laid ahead of Lewis and Clark when they forged the Missouri River and headed west. I'm sure they worried but it didn't consume them.

Tempering fear and worries is a key to succeeding in life.

There are people who have been through hell - physical abuse, mental abuse, and worse - but you can never tell. They have used the unpleasant past to become stronger. And the only way you can do that is not letting fear and/or worry consume you.

But then again, most people who worry like Mille Wyatt did can say it worked because hardly, if any, of the bad things they worried about ever happened.

In the meantime, though, they've worried half their life away.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.