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I have learned to take life day by day. Except when I don’t. Even now, there are days when I wake up so worried that if feels like the worry is a snake constricting my chest. Just a little more pressure, and my heart will burst.

For me, worry happens when I obsessively dwell on some real or imagined issue. Eventually the dwelling gives way to an overwhelming feeling of unease which obfuscates all else like a dark dense mist. Almost always I worry about the potential for something to happen, as opposed to what is actually happening. When current facts are actually troublesome, I tend not to fret. Instead, I go into proactive, problem-solving mode, where apprehension is buried by resolve.

Research suggest that worrying can have benefits. In moderation, worrying can show someone you care, motivate you to action (I worry about my bone density loss, so now I do more impact and weight bearing exercise), cause you to focus on issues that might have otherwise eluded your attention (worrying about the environment has spurred me to be much more diligent about recycling.)

Grandpa worries. The older he gets the more he worries – about money, about taxes, about doctors, about the weather, about getting home, about food, about his bowel movements. Over and again, he expresses the same worries every day in almost every conversation. Grandpa’s worries are problems we can do something about. “Grandpa, Husband is doing your taxes now. Perhaps we can keep a chart of your bowel movements, that way you can know each day that you have had a poo.” Except Grandpa doesn’t really benefit from my action steps. His worry has changed into a more general anxiety. Instead, what benefits Grandpa most is talking. Talking for him means circling, circling, circling back to the same conversations. Some days, it is hard to keep listening. Some days, I can anticipate word for word everything he is going to say. Still, I keep listening. Grandpa has always been my good friend in addition to being my father-in-law. Just because our relationship has become more difficult, it does not mean it is less valued.

Also published on Medium.

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