Saturday, June 19, 2010

I worry...

about people who worry. It's the mother in me, I suspect. I used to worry a lot about my son, as he was growing up: would he ever be finished with high school? would he get so hooked on D&D that he'd become one of those fantasy-game zombies I'd read about? would he ever find a girl who was just right for him? would he always live at home? would he still be alive when I was old and needed taking care of? (i.e., would he ever stop smoking?)

As time has gone on and he moved far enough away from me that I didn't have to watch, I learned that he was trustworthy, that he was normal (well, not completely because he's a Ketcham, but enough to get by on), that his brain was more than adequate to the task of learning and that he would excel in school eventually, that the love of gaming turned into a love of historical re-enactment, that a lovely young woman discovered him and began to love him, that he would establish a home with her and become a husband and father. I stop short of letting go of the worry about smoking, but I have learned that my worry doesn't do a thing to change him.

I think ministry has helped me let go of much of my worrywart tendencies. It's simply not possible to change anything by worrying about it. I used to wake up in the night and mentally sort through all the things I was concerned about, sometimes to the point of having to get up, get out my journal, and write down all the stuff I was worrying about. Somehow that helped me put the worries away, as if, when they were on paper, they could be saved for another time.

I still have my middle of the night worry moments, but the journal-entry tactic is always available and, if I've been faithful in my prayer practice, I can remember to "let go and let God", in the 12-step vernacular. I rarely stay awake worrying for long any more.

In ministry, I see people who are agonizing over a multitude of decisions or events. I listen to a woman on the phone who is so tired of chemo, so tired of pain, so tired of struggling, yet not willing to let go of life and not knowing what to do next. Now there's real middle of the night stuff. I can't do much for her by worrying, but I can help by listening.

Worry eats away at our lives; we spend time agonizing about things that will very likely turn out just fine. But it's hard to stop worrying unless we can find a systematic way of setting things aside and saving them for later.

I've discovered that journaling and prayer do it for me. In my journal, I can write down all my anger and grief in words that no one else will ever see, saying all the things I would never say aloud to anyone, spilling all the vitriol and venom that roil my gut and adrenalize my brain. I can put it all down, go back to it later and even add to it, and then, when finished, let it go. Later I can come back to it and write more, if necessary, or laugh at how upset I was.

Prayer is talking to a Higher Power about my concerns, confessing my fear and my inadequacy, admitting the mistakes I've made which exacerbated the situation, and making a decision about what to do next---or not. It might be just a plea for the ability to cope and then believing that I can cope, that when the need arises, I will be okay.

In all of my worries, the thing that has helped me most has been that old prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

So for all the worriers this June morning, whether it's because you're financially distressed, worried about your kids or your job or your partner, worried about the oil spill and what it means to the environment and people's lives, whatever it is, I'm thinking about you and hoping that you can find a way to let go of the worry, turn it into action, do what you can to relieve your own anxiety about it, and find joy in the daily round.


Mile High Pixie said...

Someone once referred to worrying as "borrowing trouble". I try to remember that when I start fretting about things I really can't fix or change.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Pixie, and my former minister from Jefferson Unitarian in Colorado called it "pre-purchasing pain", which has stuck with me as well.

LinguistFriend said...

I'm not sure about the proper terminology, but I will harken back to your views of the topic, somewhere between 1 and 4 AM tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

Worry must be one of the main factors in insomnia. I hate those nights of going over and over a mistake you made and can't fix, or trying to figure out how to fix it or what you should have said.
I have one job that is troublesome (the other one, thank goodness, seems to be going well.) and I spend more time than I should worrying over it.
I used to think that even if I won the lottery, I would continue to work some, but not any longer. Boy, am I ready to retire!(Except financially, of course....)