From Worry to Wonder to Wonderment

Linda Silverman's picture
Linda Kreger Silverman
 
I want to share an epiphany.  One of the blessings of giftedness is an exquisite ability to worry.  If they gave grades in school for worrying, gifted people would earn A+ in this subject.  You don’t have to be gifted to worry, but it really helps.  Think of it this way.  To be a truly great worrier, you have to have a wonderful mind (Intellectual Overexcitability) that has greater awareness, can generate possibilities, can predict consequences and can see trends.  And you need heightened imagination (Imaginational Overexcitability), so that you can envision all kinds of catastrophic outcomes.  Add to this mix deep empathy (Emotional Overexcitability), so that you can feel and experience what other people have suffered, might be going through or could possibly endure.
 
Top it off with feeling responsible for everything that happens.  “If only I had…”; “I should have…”; “I need to…”  If it is your job to prevent problems from happening, or to fix problems—whether or not you created them, there is a great deal to worry about.  If you paid attention to how much time you spend worrying, you might find that you spend more time with this preoccupation than with anything else you do or think about.
 
Years ago, Betty Maxwell introduced me to the work of Peace Pilgrim.  I remember being struck by Peace Pilgrim’s view that worry was simply a habit that the nicest people develop. 
 
How often are you worrying about the present moment?  The present is usually all right.  If you’re worrying, you’re either agonizing over the past which you should have forgotten long ago or else you’re apprehensive over the future which hasn’t even come yet.  We tend to skim right over the present moment…  If you don’t live in the present moment, you never get around to living at all.  And if you do live the present moment, you tend not to worry.  For me, every moment is a new and wonderful opportunity to be of service.  (Peace Pilgrim, 1991, p. 64)
 
While moved by these words, I wasn’t ready to let go of worrying.  I’m very attached to this habit, having practiced it my entire life.   It was instilled in me as a child that it is my responsibility to repair the world.  A “wise” child, I was taught, accepts this obligation with an open heart.  I began making To Do lists at the age of 11. As the years piled up, the responsibilities piled higher and higher, and the To Do lists got longer and longer—ridiculously so.  It became increasingly apparent that if lived to be 100, it was impossible to do all the things I promised myself I would accomplish.  I add to the list much faster than I subtract tasks I’ve completed.
 
In January of 2009, I was introduced to the work of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain researcher who had experienced a left-hemispheric stroke in her mid-thirties that robbed her of her abilities to talk, walk, write, calculate, plan and all the life skills we take for granted.  But in their place, she discovered Nirvana.  Thankfully, she recovered and is teaching the world that Nirvana is available to all of us.  It means letting go of the past and future, and staying in the present moment: the same message Peace Pilgrim and other enlightened beings have told us for ages.  This time it’s coming from a brain researcher and supported by science.   Jill’s story is very inspiring.  Take a moment to watch below; this may be the most life-changing 20 minutes of your life. I’ve watched it over and over again. And then order her book, My Stroke of Insight, for concrete suggestions on how to change your own negative patterns of thought.
 
In her book, Jill says that the part of your brain that gives you negative messages is the size of a peanut.  She calls it the “Peanut Gallery.”  “I give my story-teller full permission to whine rampantly between 9-9:30 am and then again between 9-9:30 pm.  If it accidentally misses whine time, it is not allowed to reengage in that behavior until its next allotted appointment” (Taylor, 2006, pp. 152-153). 
 
So what was my epiphany?  One evening I was worrying about two inconsequential things, and asking myself, “How am I going to (make them happen)?”  I caught myself and changed the question in my mind to, “I wonder how … will happen?”  Instantly, the phone rang and one of the problems was solved.  A few minutes later, while wondering what would happen with my other concern, there was a knock on the door, and, again, the problem solved itself!  I didn’t have to do anything.  All I did was change worry to wonder.  It felt like an exhilarating message from the universe.
 
Wonder is curiosity.  Gifted people excel at curiosity. “I wonder…” is what usually gets me out of bed in the morning.  As I began to tell other people about changing worry to wonder, it seemed to have a positive impact.  But not on everyone.  “I wonder where my keys are” doesn’t have the same effect.  It took a couple weeks to find the missing piece of the equation:  wonderment!  According to the Microsoft thesaurus, wonderment is “amazement,” “astonishment,” “awe,” “surprise.”  I would like to add joy, delight and appreciation to that list.  What a gift not to have to figure everything out myself.  Instead of making things happen—my usual way of being in the world, I allowed them to happen.  Not a new concept, but one I needed to “get” at a deep level. (When we moved to the mountains, our daughter, Miriam, wrote in a college paper, “My father came to the mountains to enjoy them, and my mother came to move them.”)
 
We live in uncertain times.  There is no such thing as job security.  We can’t rely on our investments.  We don’t know what the future will bring.  Those of us who need to feel in control of our lives are swept into worrying frenzies.  Sleeping pills and antidepressants are becoming household staples.  We ask ourselves, “What are we going to do?”
 
Maybe we’re not supposed to do anything.  Maybe we’re supposed to ride the wave, experience life as an adventure, and see what happens when we turn the page.  Maybe it’s all about allowing and experiencing gratitude when things turn out OK.
 
The formula is changing worry to wonder to wonderment.  This is probably a life lesson I will need to relearn often.  I hope it will be useful to you and your children, as well.
 
 

References

Peace Pilgrim:  Her life and work in her own words. 1991. (“Compiled by some of her friends.”)  Santa Fe, NM:  An Ocean Tree Book.
 
Taylor, J. B. (2006).  My stroke of insight:  A brain scientist’s personal journey.  New York:  Viking.