A Reformed Worrier Shares Her Secrets to Calming Down
After years of worrying about, well, everything, Ilene Angel embarked on a necessary journey to transform her life into a calmer and happier one. But after trying many of the commonly recommended remedies for stress relief and anxiety, she found herself frustrated by the lack of anything resembling meaningful change. So she began asking herself questions, like “What would I need to believe to be calmer and happier?” And “What do I need to let go of to get there?” She recounts her journey in, “How to Calm the Hell Down and Be Happy: Practical Wisdom from a Recovering Worrier.” Here’s an excerpt for this incredibly informative and helpful book, that’s also delightful and funny to read.
I once visited a church, where a phenomenally charismatic spiritual leader asked his congregation, “Wilt thou be healed?”
I thought that was an odd question.
The congregation responded emphatically, “Yes!”
Then he asked, “When?”
And they responded even more emphatically, “Now!”
He repeated this same set of questions several times in rapid succession.
“Wilt thou be healed?””
I pondered why he was asking this, and why he was asking it so many times repeatedly.
You go to someone because you’re not feeling well and you want to feel better. Maybe it’s a mere mortal medical doctor or maybe it’s God.
You are asking to be healed. You’ve gotten yourself up, and dressed, and to the doctor, or to the church, or wherever, and you’re saying, “Please heal me.”
Then, your fervent pleading is met with the question: “Will you be healed?”
Why ask that question when you obviously want to be healed? Didn’t you go there? Didn’t you ask to be?
But the question isn’t if you asked to be or even if you want to be. The real question is are you willing to be.
Willingness is at the heart of everything we say we want in our lives. Let me repeat that sentence just in case your eyes glazed over.
There are plenty of things we want. We’ve got lists, in fact. But wanting and willingness are two entirely different animals, because wanting does not require taking action and definitely doesn’t involve sacrifice, but willingness, on the other hand, does.
Even if willingness didn’t require sacrificing anything else, it requires that we relinquish our story. And we are chock full of stories.
“I’d love to go bowling with you, but my sciatica is acting up.””
Well, first of all, if your sciatica wasn’t acting up, you might actually have to own up to the fact that you hate bowling. Then, there’s all that sympathy you get. Plus, maybe your kind friend will lug the three cases of bottled water that are on sale this week at the grocery store for you. Gosh, this sciatica thing has really turned into a blessing in disguise, hasn’t it?!!
This is not an exaggeration of how most of us operate on a daily basis. We tell stories about everything. But the biggest story we tell ourselves and the world around us over and over again, throughout the course of our lives, is the story of why we can’t have or do or be what we truly want. It is the saddest story of all. And if we really want to be happy, this is the story that we must be willing to relinquish.
So take a moment, if you will, and answer the following questions:
What is my story about how life works?
What is my story about how love works?
What is my story about how money works?
What is my story about how careers work?
What is my story about how family works?
What is my story about how relationships work?
What is my story about how God, or religion, or the Universe works?
What is my story about how forgiveness works?
What we believe or tell ourselves about each of these things shows up as the portrait of our lives.
What we think and believe determines what we say, and what we say determines what we do, and all three, what we think, say, and do, add up to what our lives look like.
So the long and short of it is that if we want different lives, we have to begin by telling ourselves and everybody else something different.
That brings me to the other part of what lies at the heart of everything we say we want, which is letting go.
Our happiness, joy, peace, contentment, and fulfillment are not made manifest by anything that we acquire or obtain. They are dependent upon what we are willing to let go of in order to have those things.
So let’s take a moment now and ask ourselves, honestly…
Am I willing to let go of what is familiar?
Am I willing to let go of my past?
Am I willing to let go of my pain?
Am I willing to let go of why I can’t have what I say I want?
Am I willing to let go of how I think life wronged me?
Am I willing to let go of who I’ve always been and how I’ve always seen myself?
Am I willing to let go of what I’ve always done?
Am I willing to let go of the roles I’ve been cast in, whether by my own choosing or by other people’s choosing?
Am I willing to let go of being where I am in order to get where I say I want to be?
Am I willing to let go of being right?
Am I willing to let go of perfection?
Our willingness to let go of what does not serve us is the key determining factor in creating the life we truly want.
Our lives are not chauffeur-driven limousines. We don’t hop in the back seat and hope the driver knows what he’s doing. We are the drivers. The gas, the brakes, the steering, the shifting gears are all up to us.
So answer this honestly…
What am I really willing to do to be calm and happy?
Whether it is a book, a hit song, a published column, or a groundbreaking blog, Ilene Angel has been inspiring people for much of her life. Angel is an award-winning #1 songwriter and one-third of the band The Inspire Project, whose catchphrase, “passion, purpose and possibility,” says a lot about what she herself embodies. She has been a contributor to Huffington Post, and is now a contributor to Medium.com as well as Thrive Global. How to Calm the Hell Down and Be Happy is her second book.