Affirmation: I let go of worry.
She just announced she's going to Cuba. It's not her first trip. She's gone there before. My first thought is "She is so brave." My second thought is "I hope she has a safe trip." My third thought goes to my greatest fear, "I hope she's not abducted by a band of rebel guerrillas and made to traipse through the jungle where she gets all wrinkled and dies ugly." Worry. I'm already worrying about her safety and for that matter, my safety and I'm not even going.
My mediation reading this morning was about worry. It said worrying about something was akin to having a headache and banging your head against a wall to get rid of it. I can be an active headbanger but I have decided to stop worrying. I have decided to give up worry for Lent. Do you think that's possible?
The famous comedienne George Burns once did a whole routine about worry. He said he gave up worry when he realized how futile it was. "It serves no purpose to worry about something you can't do anything about and if you're worried about something you can do something about, well just go do it!"
My paternal grandmother developed Alzheimer's at a very young age. She died at the age of 72. I believe they first started to notice a change in behavior at the age of 55. I now bring communion for my church to an Alzheimer's unit. Most of the residents are women. I began worrying about getting Alzheimer's when I first heard it could be hereditary. I was in my early 30's. I even considered getting some sort of long term care health insurance. I shared my concern with my young teenage daughter. Her response, "Oh, Mom, that's so silly. By the time your that age, they'll have a cure for it." I stopped worrying. She was wrong, but it didn't matter. I was able to let it go.
Worry can permeate our lives like a cancer, slowly growing without our ever recognizing the detrimental affect it is having. Not only does it undermine our sense of peace but physically it causes the body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol. It is natural to be concerned about our lives but there is a difference between concern and obsession. Once we become obsessed with a concern we are in a place that won't allow us to clearly view our situation, we become muddled. It truly is a useless exercise, waisting so much of our precious energy. Sometimes, however, all the positive thinking in the world will not decrease your anxiety. There is a condition known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder and it is treatable with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. It's not always just in our mind, sometimes it's chemical and in order to turn things around, one may need some additional assistance.
Last week a meteor, the size of a school bus, 10,000 tons with the power of an atomic bomb, landed in Russia. A number of people died. There were numerous videos of it streaking across the early morning skies. It appears all the cars in Russia have cameras on them to record any accident that takes place. The cameras are designed to act as a third, impartial witness. I couldn't help wonder how many people that day were worrying about an asteroid landing on them? In my husband's book, Humanity at Work, he tells the story of the fish and the pelican. There's the fish swimming along watching out for the barracuda or some other predator when along comes a pelican and swoops it up, a creature from another universe totally foreign to the fish's world. We have no idea what life is going to present us with, a meteor or perhaps a pelican. I felt like a meteor landed on my life when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. I know I speak for many when I say that many of the physical diagnosis we receive come as total shocks. Sometimes they are conditions we have never even heard about. We may not even be able to pronounce them or perhaps we have heard about them but never considered they would affect us. Truly, if we really wanted to worry all the time, I'm sure we could make up lots of stuff. Actually, most of our worries are fantasy driven because we can never know what the future will bring, we can only guess. Let go of your concerns for the future, focus on the now.
This is one of the wonderful side effects of prayer and mediation. When we have a practice that brings us back to the present, we can use it in times of concern to recognize we have jumped off into the unknown and to bring ourselves back to the here and now. Prayer and the belief in a benevolent God can bring great peace.
In Conversation with God, Father Francis Fernandez addresses the passage from Matt 6:34, Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. He goes on to say, “What matters is today. Worry magnifies the difficulties and diminishes our ability to fulfill the duty of the present moment. We can live only in the present. Anxieties almost always arise because we fail to put all our effort into the here and now.” If we believe we will be given the graces we need in order to contend with anything that crops up. We will be victorious!
Perhaps with continued practice, I will let go of worry. Perhaps I will even be able to celebrate in my friend's trip to Cuba and instead of feeling anxious about it, send her along with heartfelt blessings and a vision of a wonderful adventure.