“Mattie sat at the table, obsessing, orbiting around herself. She was sick of her worried, hostile mind. It would have killed her long before, she felt, if it hadn’t needed the transportation.” ― Anne Lamott, Blue Shoe
I could be having a sweet dream about Jude Law right now, but no. Instead I’m lying in bed wrestling with an unwelcome visitor, worry. I’ve about reached the grand mal hissy fit level-over things that will resolve without this trauma. I feel like I’ll spontaneously combust. There is no word in the English language that adequately describes how I hate this sporadic reoccurrence. Evidently there is a genetic predisposition in the Valentine clan for my reaction to this; it was also passed on to my eldest niece. When she was little Gramps bought her a tiny dapple Shetland pony whom we named “Hissy Fit” in her honor. Is it just me, or some manner of collective anxiety passed down to me through generations, or passed down to women, or to Americans?
Each time I wake in the night and worry myself into heartburn, headache and enough generalized anxiety to warrant a high dose cocktail of anti-anxiety meds I ask myself, why are you doing this? Again? What we give our energy and attention to grows, multiplies. If we study something we are interested in most likely our attraction to that subject will increase as our knowledge of it does. Similarly, if we dwell on problems they will take on lives of their own. Unless you are extremely fortunate and your life has been a bed of roses or you are the grand puba of peace and all things spiritual, you know what I mean. Worry raids our quality of life, steals our moments, makes us ill and complicates our relationships.
Even as a grade-schooler I had the worry cloud over my head at times. I remember our speaker at sixth grade graduation saying “The past six years probably went by very quickly for you. The next six will go by even more quickly and the six after that even faster.” I think I’ve obsessed about how I use the time I have on this earth since then. There is a condition that affects the bladder causing tremendous inflammation called interstitial cystitis. This occurs when the area between the cells becomes inflamed. I believe many of us have interstitial anxiety, worry that creeps in between the fabric of our lives, between our thoughts, between our moments.
But how do we move past this habit of worry? I use the word “habit” because I do think to some degree our brains become trained to worry. I know this because when I wake in the middle of the night unworried my brain seems to search the database to FIND something to worry about! Jesus, who was spectacular at cutting to the chase, said “Therefore do not be anxious about your life. . . but seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:31-32)
In 1998 through 2000 I gave particular time and focus to deepening my spiritual life; I placed this above everything else in my life. About this time I had a dream that I was seated upon a huge pile of paper and wondering what to do with it all. As I sat there I realized I was seated on a stack of worries! It finally dawned on me that they were just paper and I could burn them.
What do you think happened during this three year period? Worry just about ceased and life fell into place in astounding ways. I know this, lived this and still fall into old habits. I don’t mean to channel Pollyanna; my life has not been without tremendous struggle and this process is not easy. But if we heed the advice of Jesus and keep refocusing on God, the nights and the dreams can both be better. I’ll see you on the other side Jude.