The Art of Worry

Letting Go #6:

I come from a long line of worriers. It’s in my genetic disposition, so to speak. Specifically, my maternal branch is populated with “master worriers.” My father’s side? I have no idea since there was a conspicuous lack of females, or males who gave a crap while they were roaming the high seas seeking refuge from their wives and children. I, as the only girl child in my immediate family, learned from the best, namely my mother, who learned from the ultimate expert—my grandmother. And from what I hear, her mother (Granny) was pretty good at it, too.

These matriarchs worried about everything from possible infidelity, to the cake falling, to “getting a chill.” Notice the order of worry. Somehow, “getting a chill” was considered worse than death or other unimaginable sufferings. To tell the truth, I’m not sure what this dreaded situation actually meant. What happened after you got one of these? Apparently, it could lead to whooping cough, the plague or Victorian-style delirium among other horrible conditions. Considering the dire consequences, this condition was to be avoided at all costs. My grandmother’s solution nearly always involved the all-encompassing mustard plaster. I, myself, was not subjected to this treatment, but I have been told many times by the lucky recipients that it burned like hell. And it worked like a charm—they had second degree burns on their chests, but the “chill” was gone.

My particular charge was to never get my head cold or (gasp) wet. I had to wear head covering well into summer (in Maryland, no less) when I went to visit my grandmother, and she never allowed me to bathe or shower without the fashionable “shower” cap. I was not entirely sure how I was supposed to wash my hair. She went to the hairdresser’s every week for her wash and set, but I didn’t have that luxury. So, the head gear actually came in handy to cover up my stringy, grease-laden hair when I had to go out during a long stay with grandma.

One of my mother’s biggest worries when I was young would be moving to a new abode, which happened quite often, so you’d think I’d figure out that this particular pastime wasn’t all that effective. On the contrary, being the overachiever that I am, I was busy honing my worry skills to a fine art. I worried about getting strange diseases that I looked up in the World Book (no, chill wasn’t in there), touching the nice furniture in the living room that no one could use, saying a bad word that I didn’t know was a bad word, or forgetting my locker combination at school so I’d have to leave without my coat and thereby risk the notorious chill. Do you remember those days of childhood? Maybe I was an odd child—one of those little adults.

Obviously, the worries have grown bigger (but no more dramatic) as time’s gone by. For a time, I was convinced that if I put in some good worry, the thing I was concerned about wouldn’t happen—I call it earning good karma by worrying. And sometimes I worry about the absolutely worst-case scenario so that whatever is really going on won’t seem so bad. I fully indulge in the art of worry. But nothing comes free. As my mind’s shrill chatter continues even in my sleep, my body has begun to wear out on the worry. I lie in my bed, grow quiet, listen to my breathing—and worry about my worrying. Will the vicious cycle ever end? Never fear, along the way I’ve found tools to help with the worry like prayer, and chanting, and meditation—and a nice glass of wine. One day, I came across a bit of wisdom that left an indelible mark on me like a mustard plaster:

Worrying is an insult to God.

And I have to laugh over the illusion I’ve created within myself that I can control my life by worrying. What I am really doing is putting that thought or that bit of energy out into the universe. In other words, I’m very good at manifesting that worry. And if I’m not careful, I will miss all the wonderful gifts that are presenting right under my nose every day.

The mere thought of missing the good stuff just gives me the chill.


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