Monday, November 07, 2016

Consider the lillies. Or scabs.

What does it mean to worry?

A couple of decades ago, my worrying was exaggerated fear of bad stuff happening. It has morphed. My 38-year-old self rather allows her thoughts to hover in bad places. It's like the internal 'worrying' of a wound - fiddling, picking, fixating. Suffocating time's natural capacity to heal.

Someone who worries about money might be fixated on getting more. Or on spending less. Or on how to manage what they have. The latter might seem good husbandry. Maybe it is, if you'd answer the question "what's the most important thing in your life?" with "money". Otherwise, no, it's not good to allow so much of your mind to be occupied by something you don't want to care about. (Not bothered by money? Try replacing it here with 'career' or 'what other people think of you' or wherever you invest a lot of brain time.)

Parental worrying is a competitive sport. Who worries better, the parents that drive their kids everywhere, shower them with gifts, monitor their homework and fill every minute with fun? Or the ones that loudly reject this, enforcing counter-cultural, frugal, free-range lifestyles? Maybe the better way is not to sweat it. I don't want to liken my kids to scabs but ..... they're probably going to drop off my knee in less of a mess if I haven't fretted over them too much.

I'm not advocating neglect. Worrying About and Neglecting are not opposites. In fact, they are related. It's a widespread falsehood that the mother who worries more about her finances or the father who fixates on his kids' chances of survival is more attentive. Neglect is a failure to act on the needs of the here and now. Worrying is also a failure to attend to the present moment. Going back to our little wound, worrying is a horror of past hurts and / or an impatience for future improvement. It completely misses the truth of the matter - your body is best left alone right now.

Jesus' Do Not Worry speech helped me out loads when I was about 15. My understanding of its meaning has changed but, today, I find it just as helpful. We humans cannot cast off the tendency and temptation to worry, so the advice is never dated. And it is almost always possible, in a given situation, to worry less and therefore be happier. How? By fully focusing on the present.

I'd say the signs a battle is being won against worry are gratitude and generosity. I'm not very good at those. I'm not very good at being present. But I'm trying not to fret about it.

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