Worry is Not Love.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Jun 4, 2013
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There’s something perplexing about love.

I thought I knew love when I told my parents and sister growing up that I loved them, and meant it from the bottom of my baby heart.

Then I thought I knew love when I met my future husband at the tenderly angsty age of 14.

It wasn’t until much later, though, that I was positive that I had finally met love when I gave birth to my own baby girl.

Love has so many faces and facets—and not all of them constantly reflect the light.

This last month, I’ve been in a dark internal space filled with worry and concern for my daughter’s health—but I didn’t consciously acknowledge that this was even happening until it was basically over; when my little girl was healed and perfectly fine again.

Worry eats at us in the strangest of ways.

As a former anorexic, I still have occasional body image issues, but now I’m nearly always aware that these damaging thoughts come from poor mental and emotional coping skills rather than actual discord with my physical self.

In other words, for years, I used my eating disorder to cope with personal issues that have nothing to do with my body or with food; my eating disorder merely functioned as a poorly working tool for this purpose of stress relief (ironically adding stress and making the pre-existing ones worse to boot)—until I taught myself, through much hard work and determination, new and better ways to deal with myself and with my life.

Regardless, it’s still ingrained in me to pick on myself physically when I undergo something internally that I don’t want to confront—like a problem relating to someone I love that I have no control over—and an eating disorder gives a false sense of control.

I’ve always been the sort of person who over-thinks nearly everything; I think it might be tattooed onto my DNA somewhere.

I don’t think there’s really anything wrong with this either. I know that it inspires my writing; this constant self-analysis and analysis of my world and its occupants.

Likewise, I know that my curiosity serves my intelligent self-education, my continual craving for learning, and my thoughtful digestion of as many materials in my subjects of choice as I can get a hold of. (One of the reasons that I adore studying yoga is that the research is never ending.)

Still, worry, fear and exaggeration of reality are not useful in life—or inside of us.

They strip away happiness and leave a shiny veneer of insecurity—and these are not things that I want to present to my daughter as she grows and learns about life herself.

My daughter is seemingly my opposite in many crucial ways.

For example, the way that I methodically and rationally hunger for order and controlled circumstances and outcomes is not implanted on her DNA—actually, she might be allergic to it.

She’s bold. She’s naturally confident. She tries everything without being shown first. She wants to figure it out for herself—and she has the belief in herself that she can. (Thank God.)

Apparently, I was the way that I am now even when I was her toddler age—and my husband was more like my daughter. Nature vs. nurture? I’m not sure, because if I didn’t believe strongly in nurture then I wouldn’t try so hard to be a good parent, but I’m telling you, there is something to this other nature thing.

At the same time, my neurotic self-assessment and natural state of worry is exhausting—and as a mother, I have no room for energy leakage.

Raising a healthy, happy girl means that I must be a healthy, happy woman.

I must acknowledge and accept myself—and I must find beneficial ways to deal with the situations that life hands me—because life hands us both good and bad.

Life isn’t fair. Sometimes perfect people hold perfectly horrible cards.

So what do we do? With all of this worry?

Well, I’m not planning on going back to being anorexic—especially while raising a female—but I’ll probably always have a propensity to be mentally driven.

For me, this means finding positive ways to express my mind and my nervous energy.

I write. I practice yoga. I read. Yet the one thing that’s helped me the most is the same little thing that’s caused me more anxiety than anything else I’ve ever experienced—my daughter.

Just like it’s true that life isn’t fair, it’s also true that the best things in life are free—and that they take work.

John Burroughs said,

“For anything worth having one must pay the price, and the price is always work, patience, love, self-sacrifice—no paper currency, no promises to pay, but the gold of real service.” 

My work right now is learning when to let go—when to let my little girl have her own life and her own struggles, and to know when she needs me to step in and monitor, and when she needs me to let her fall and figure out how to get back up on her own. Somehow, I have a strong feeling that this will result in a lifetime of effort for me.

Here’s another thing that I’ve learned through my yoga studies: when we worry, we take power away from others.

We’re by default saying that our way is the better way; that we know better; and that our minds are stronger and smarter than theirs—not true, of course, and we don’t even mean it this way, I’m absolutely well aware. However, it’s true—this is how we worriers make other people feel.

I have to grab my daughter’s hand when she needs safely led across the street, but the pure delight of her being the first to reach up and grab mine is gloriously indescribable.

And that’s just the thing—by backing off, we have the ability to be caught by surprise that their way was, in fact, the best one all along.

When I get in touch with my worry I create the power to let it go (because ignoring issues only makes them temporarily invisible, you know).

I get in touch with my worry, and then this means that sometimes I have to swallow it, or learn to live with it.

My daughter does need me—she’s only two-and-a-half—but even in her tiny stage, she needs to maneuver a few bumps in the road herself—so that she learns proper coping skills for her own life’s journey.

I know that I don’t want to watch her go through an eating disorder like my parents did, and maybe I still will—or maybe, just maybe, I’ll find the strength to stop looking at her and her life through the scope and experience of my own.

Surely it takes considerable strength to hold another’s heart inside of your own, all the while giving it the room it needs to grow and flourish—and to discover that love and worry are, fortunately, not synonyms.

[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in)]
by e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)


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Ed: Bryonie Wise


{Photo: via Octobermoon on Pinterest}


About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


11 Responses to “Worry is Not Love.”

  1. Anne says:

    A beautiful post. Your daughter is lucky to have such a thoughtful and interested mother who draws on the strengths and skills from her past experiences. Your daughter, I’m sure, is already reaping the benefits of your insights.

  2. Jennifer White says:

    Thank you, Anne, your feedback honestly means the world to me. I've written a lot about the amount of pressure that women face, partly self-induced and partly our worldly expectations. If I can instill anything in my little girl at all, it's that joy should infuse everything we do and guilt should not.

  3. @yogatwit says:

    Nice, nice. Thanks.

  4. fragginfraggin says:

    Understanding is the essence of Love. Love is the practice of looking deeply into another and not just the intention of making another happy. If you dont look deeply to understand, you cannot love. If you love without understanding, you are making another suffer. -Thich Nhat Hahn

  5. pat says:

    Girl, you gotta stop making me cry…… Too bad science can't invent a pill to instill self worth and confidence. All young girls would get the first dose at age 10, but after that a doctor could prescribe it if/when medically needed. What a rocking world it would be.

  6. solfulsoul says:

    Reflection is a wonder for the process reveals all life to all who witness it. Your sentiments towards nature and nurture are what struck me most, for I've never believed they are exclusive from each other, though they may be distinct. Perhaps some of us are more inclined to discovery and exploration than to structure and methodology, but a certain sense of strength is certainly born with both. I'm certain your daughter's confidence is a product of your parenting just as I am sure your efforts at reflection and understanding are a product of the blessing that is your daughter; each are born from the other. I think the innocence of children is that they have no sense of doubt, they simply pick and choose as they see fit. And so, they can show you a world you've already known quite well, but perhaps have since forgotten. I look forward to more of your words!

  7. dissertation says:

    Love is the exercise of looking greatly into another and not just the objective of creating another satisfied.If I can generate anything in my little lady at all, it's that joy should generate everything we do and shame should not.Your little lady is fortunate to have such a careful and fascinated mom who attracts on the strong points and abilities from her previous experiences

  8. Jennifer White says:

    Thank you 🙂

  9. Jennifer White says:

    Aw, Pat, thank you. I actually wrote a blog that just went up about one way I think we can all improve our confidence. As a parent, I know that I'll employ this particular technique with daughter, particularly around age 10 😉

  10. Jennifer White says:

    Thank you! Your comment is just beautiful! I much appreciate your thoughtful feedback.

    I think that nature and nurture do indeed work hand in hand—and I'm no expert—but it's my thinking, at this particular place in my life, that nature plays a crucial role in personality.
    For example, I have a mirror-image identical twin sister. Technically, we are the same, but we're not. (Mirror image twins tend to be opposites in many ways, including personality.) I've always been the type of person that over thinks things, and I know this from my own memory, not my parents recollections (although they and others confirm this). I remember things from well before I was one, and not just one or two things, but a myriad. This early memory is one reason I work so hard with my little girl. Who's to say what she'll remember?

    Such an interesting discussion…
    Thanks again for your thoughtful feedback.

  11. Jennifer White says:

    Love your thoughts! And thank you from the bottom of my heart.