“Of all men’s miseries the bitterest is this: to know so much and to have control over nothing.” ~ Herodotus.
I used to be an excellent worrier. I somehow felt that if I imagined all of the possible bad outcomes that could happen, then they wouldn’t happen. It would be arrogance on my part (I thought) to assume that bad things could not happen to me or mine. It was when I realized that I was making myself sick, wrecking my ability to sleep, giving myself tension headaches that I had to find a way to stop doing it. I believe what helped was reading about the practice of thinking with intention, of willing good things into being, that helped me to realize there was another way of living life.
I felt better when I heard (on my favorite source of information, NPR) that we are hardwired to anticipate bad things happening. For prehistoric man/woman, it was only by imagining, looking out for, being watchful and observant, that we could save ourselves from predators whether human or animal. So it wasn’t crazy to worry, to think about endless possibilities (mostly for my children), but it was definitely unproductive, a waste of energy, and it in no way changed anything.
Recently I have listened to two young women (on separate occasions) who were driving themselves sick with worry. It is amazing to think we are in control of much that happens in our lives, not recognizing how little we actually do. In one case, it was the health of her sister, a woman with a rare degenerative neurological condition. As I listened to the story unfold, I saw a young woman who was carrying the burden of her sister’s illness on her shoulders, as if she could control the outcome. I could see that she was the one in need of care, in need of saving, and I had to remind her that self-care is not selfish. When you are the one taking care of others, you absolutely have to take care of yourself, or you won’t be around to take care of everyone else. So many of us don’t recognize that.
It is a feature of co-dependency, to so occupy yourself with the needs of others that you have no time for yourself. In fact it is a drug, an addiction, and it saves you from having to look at the things in yourself that you need to fix. This is often a hard lesson to learn, because it feeds the ego to be the one others turn to. At the same time it is exhausting, and often we become irritated at those others, not recognizing that we fostered the habits, we never learned to say no.
Last weekend on my nature trails I encountered (but was not able to catch on my phone camera) a variety of birds: sandhill cranes; egrets; a great blue heron; a swallow tail kite; a hawk; possibly a bald eagle, and a woodpecker. This aside from petcharies (nightingales); wrens; sparrows; bluejays and a variety of doves. Oh, and a flash of a red cardinal by a canal. I also saw turtles and rabbits. There is something so healing about being aware of the natural world. Not only are they some beautiful creatures, they also remind you that there are those that live their lives with only thoughts of the here and now: find something to eat; flit from place to place; procreate and survive. The other things we worry about are mostly of our own making, imagined what ifs, problems for tomorrow. Learning to appreciate this moment, to be present in this space takes practice. Learning to let go of the things we think we have control over is even harder.
In my unofficial role as counsellor of students, I often draw on stories to illustrate how we allow our ‘monkey mind’ to distract us from our goals. We go down rabbit holes of ‘what ifs’ and fail to see what is staring us in our face. But if we work on it, we can train ourselves to change the narrative; we can just as easily ask ourselves what if the outcome will be better than expected? What if that possible bad outcome doesn’t happen? What if this apparently tragic event actually brings about even better possibilities?
We have been shocked, appalled, disgusted by recent events in the State Legislature of Tennessee, only to see that it has resulted in far greater gains than we could have hoped for. Not only have the ousted two been restored to their seats, the ripples are still spreading outward. The two young Black men’s voices have been amplified to a global audience, and we can only imagine their future now. A community has been unified, diverse voices are singing in unison, and the consequences may be profound.
We have to actively work to correct wrong, to fight for justice and inclusion, but we also have to recognize that at times we may just have to let go and be patient, to let the universe unfold as it should, and trust the process. For so many things are beyond our control. This week we have watched as a deluge fell over South Florida. An area that is threatened with sea level rise, is also subject to flash flooding as drainage systems are unable to handle 15 inches of rainfall in a day. In fact over 20 inches fell in 24 hours in a neighborhood close to mine, and Broward County has declared an emergency, closing its schools for 2 days. Mother Nature is reminding us that we better recognize, and prepare for more once in a thousand years events. Those who won’t hear will feel!
This Friday morning, I hope you are one of those who is able to take life as it comes without worrying about things beyond your control. I hope you are playing your part in making this world a better place in whatever way you can. And I hope that when everyday life overwhelms you, you can make time to go out into those wild open spaces that put your worries into perspective and help you to appreciate what you have.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!
A lovely post! I am trying my hardest not to worry these days. 2022 was a year of great challenges for my husband and I, but strangely I found myself worrying less as a result. Sometimes you must take things as they come! And immersing yourself in Nature is definitely healing. You saw petcharies! (actually that is the Jamaican name for the Gray Kingbird). PS I hope you are safe from flooding!