The “Worrier” Gene

Some of us were born with a “worrier” gene and I am one of them.

Women, in particular, seem to share this tendency and our conversations with one another reflect this.  We have an over-developed sense of responsibility and we over-work and under-rest as a result.

In our introspective moments, most women acknowledge this.  We worry too much, but…then the list of concerns begins.  Our minds get stuck in this gear.  We ruminate about our work, children, parents, health, safety, bills, waistline, wallet, you name it.

Being conscientious and responsible are noble characteristics, but wearing worry and over-work like a badge of honor doesn’t help.  Working long hours with no time for hobbies or play, and short, hurried vacations?  Really?

I have wonderful men in my life and honestly, the guys I know don’t roll like that.  They are more relaxed and more fun to be around.

Men may pack on a little belly but it doesn’t define them.  They are comfortable in their own skin.

If they want to do something, they don’t argue with themselves about why they can’t, or shouldn’t, or why it is selfish.  They don’t burn up precious energy wondering if it is God’s will.  They don’t need to ask permission to take action.

This is not to minimize their own set of life issues or stresses.  I just don’t see men stuck in their concerns to the same degree women are prone to be.

There could also be a cultural element to this issue of worry.  My husband is Colombian and while I roll my eyes at the strong personalities of the Latin women in his family, they are far more personally empowered than I.

They are beautiful and they know it and their outward beauty feeds an internal sense of entitlement.  I may find that narcissistic, but such strength of resolve has its benefits.

My sisters-in-law are poor by US standards, yet they spend a larger portion of their income on beauty products, clothing and external appearance than I do…and they are shopping in devalued Colombian pesos.  I have US dollars.

My “worrier gene” would be in high gear if I owed a bunch of money for cosmetic surgery but they don’t worry about it.

How can they not worry?!  They are already broke and they just took on another payment!

Many employers in Colombia don’t even fill full-time positions so employees go from contract to contract with periods of unemployment in between.

But no worries.  They are thinking about today, not tomorrow, and today they are happy because they look great.

I may find that vain and irresponsible but in their fatalistic view, life is uncertain.  Taking care of the outside demonstrates their value of the inside.

Beauty is not viewed as vanity.  It is essential.  It is their right.  So is pleasure.

While I cannot condone financial irresponsibility, there is something in me that says I should actively seek out more beauty and pleasure.

I should worry less about what other people think, less about the future, and less about meeting some ridiculous internal standard of perfection.

Colombian society has been scarred by so much violence and suffering that at times, they seem indifferent to it.  I struggle with their callousness but of necessity, they have toughened up and accepted that the world is full of suffering.  They can’t ruin their own lives with chronic worry.

Materially, they have so little, but they can laugh.  They can be crazy.  They are ready at any moment to break out the rum, turn up the salsa music, and dance.

Taken to an extreme this may not be healthy but neither is being chronically overworked, stressed out and exhausted.  In that regard, we have much to learn from our South American sisters.

Saving for, planning and taking an extended career break to travel with my family is all about pleasure, adventure, and experiencing more of this big, beautiful world with the people I love most.  I don’t have to defend or justify that to anyone.

I have heard that the future of medicine will include identifying and suppressing problematic genes from their full expression.  Let’s make a pact that we – by personal choice and act of will – suppress our “worrier” gene.  We can be more like my Colombian sisters-in-law…bold, beautiful, entitled and in charge!



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