“The good news,” the report concluded, is that “everyone worries less as they get older.”
What was that?
I am supposed to be worrying less as I age? What am I doing wrong?
According to Rabin’s NY Times article, based on a new white paper released by Liberty Mutual Insurance, two out of five Americans (that’s all?) worry about something every day, but everyone worries less as they get older. For the record, as I toss and turn in the middle of the night tonight, I will certainly be pondering why I am worrying more, and I’ll worry about that too.
So maybe the better question is…how old, exactly, do you actually have to be to stop worrying so much?
“When does older hit?” the woman on the plane in the seat next to mine asked, as I summarized the article I was writing. “I’m 62…and I’m still worrying…”
My guess is that many “older” people would disagree with that conclusion. For people like me (female, late 50s) and most of my friends, and clearly the lady on the plane (and admittedly, for Roni herself–linkedin shows she graduated high school the year after I did) we are still going full throttle. My worrying will probably stop at the earlier of a. losing my marbles completely or b. dropping dead.
From what I have seen, worriers come in three categories, at any age. First, there is the kind of person who worries about the things that are in his or her control. My husband, for example might worry whether he will kick ass at a work presentation, and his worry turns into action- the kind where he over-prepares.
Second, there is the kind of person who worries about things he or she can’t control (most middle-aged women I know.) Among us, there are those that have these sorts of ridiculous, sicko thoughts running through our minds: “Will my kid drink himself to death over spring break?” “Will my kid get into a car accident driving home to see me?” “Will my kid get roofied at a bar and I’ll get a call from the police telling me she is in a bathtub with only one kidney left?” These worries also turn into action– the kind where you toss and turn for hours in the middle of the night, accomplishing nothing.
Third, there is the kind of person who worries incessantly about both (yup, just shoot me.)
For many of us at mid-life and older, it’s all about control, or more precisely, the utter lack of control that we are smart enough, and experienced enough, to know we don’t have… in increasing amounts as we age. Little kids, we got them under control. Bigger kids, a little less so. Adult kids? Fuggetaboutit.
We worry about all sorts of things as we get older- big, “life” things that we simply have no control over:
Will my cancer come back?
Are my adult kids making the right life choices?
Did my kid pick the right person to marry?
What will become of my aging, cognitively declining mother?
What kind of a world are we leaving for our grandchildren?
Will I have enough money to retire?
Where the hell did that brutal pain in my neck come from?
And to make matters worse, at midlife, we have more time to worry about these things.
All that time running around going to little league games, sitting at middle school plays and concerts, and cooking family dinners, giving baths, and reading bedtime stories…that is all empty nest time that can now be filled with thinking…and worrying!
My friend came up with a formula for why we worry MORE as we get older which I believe to be brilliant:
More Time + Less Control = More Worry
She put it even more bluntly: “It’s all about our adult kids, and we no longer have any control. So on the worry scale, we are f&*ked.”
Or maybe there’s an altogether better way to look at all of this…when I begin to worry less, I’ll finally be “older” (or dead?) Until that time, I’m still a spring chicken.