The morning rays filter the bedroom and I hear the woodpecker pecking on a tree trunk outside our house. It is early. In one hour, I will hear another tapping inside the house. My daughter’s feet scurry to start her day.
My day will unfold with routine and mundane tasks: washing dishes, making lunches and dinner, taking out the garbage, checking the calendar, exiting and entering my car for pick-ups and drop-offs and various errands that are planned or arise out of surprise. As I move throughout the morning, my mind gravitates toward various worries, those that are real and imaginary. This is not a new course for me. The thread of worry thrums as my back story. I’ve never quite conquered it and as I get older, the magnitude of what I worry about gains a new momentum, a cycle that continues, as much as I try to stop it.
On the radio or on the news, there is another story about a natural disaster, a shooting at a school, a marriage crumbling permanently when one spouse shoots the other and in a similar vain, catastrophic events overshadow the lives of people I know and love, carrying the same beat – yet another cancer diagnosis, a job loss and a hospitalization for mental distress. This tide of news, whether it happens to a stranger or a friend, creeps into my psyche and feeds my need to worry.
But when the day ends, the worries throughout the day do not usually materialize, but instead, unexpected good outcomes provide the filter to redirect my gaze.
The march of sunrises and sunsets glitter the sky, with a spectacular glow that takes my breath away.
When my family sits together at dinner, there is an exchange of banter and talking about nothing – But this nothing is everything. My circle, front and center, breathing and living.
Everyday I am honored that my words hit the page. Sometimes I worry as I write, but then a moment occurs where I let go of the outcome and sink into the process.
The trickle of voices I hear from via text or phone or through Facebook of reminders that people are celebrating anniversaries, birthdays, promotions or a Hawaiian sunrise on vacation – suggesting the gloaming of goodness is always present.
There are also those moments of insight that occur at the precise right time.
As I scrolled through my Facebook feed yesterday, I ran across this Mary Oliver poem from my blogger friend, Wendy. Oliver’s words captured a sentiment that threads my everyday, but have failed to articulate.
I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
I’ve made a promise. The next time I worry, I will think about the hundreds of good outcomes I’ve witnessed – keeping them close.
Do you worry? What do you do to pacify your worrying thoughts?
I do worry. Less and less so, but still. My greatest pacifier is usually to ground myself completely is what is happening, right this very minute. There has not been a single time yet, that the moment wasn’t endurable, and usually it turns out I have everything I need and then some.
I read that poem out loud to Mani last night, and loved it. Beautiful, in the context of your words. Thank you, Rudri.
“But when the day ends, the worries throughout the day do not usually materialize, but instead, unexpected good outcomes provide the filter to redirect my gaze.”
This. I think I need to consciously realize this at the close of every day. I think it’s too simplistic to just say, “Stop worrying,” but in this you’ve found a way to work with it and around that changes it all up. Lovely. Thank you.
Thanks for your insight, Khadijah.
I think the worrying never completely diminishes, but as you said, reframing it makes it more palatable.
I love what you say about grounding into what is happening in the existing moment. It is a practice that I am trying to cultivate.
Every single time Mary Oliver reminds me of a new lesson. So grateful to intersect with her words.
Oh yes, I worry, every day. Will The Big One shake us in CA today? That’s just one of dozens, if not more, of today’s worries. I like “pacify.” To make pacific. I look at my surroundings in appreciation for them to take me away from worries–to tether me to “now.”
If I bombard myself with all my potential worries, it is overwhelming. Repeating the word, pacify, throughout the day is a good way to actively try to calm yourself.
Lovely, Rudri. I find that I am not a daily worrier of little things, but I can get paralyzed by the big worries. Like you, I find that when I add up the good, it balances and sometimes even diminishes the worries- depends on what we choose to see.
Yes, big worries plague me too. I think so much of it centers on what we choose to see and how we decide to interpret it. Always nice to see you here! xo
Worrying is such a waste of energy, yet it is so difficult to refrain from it. I love this poem. I will have to try to remember it. Thank you for your lovely words of truth this morning. Blessings to you this day and always, Rudri.
I love Mary Oliver, but this poem is new for me. I love these kind of unexpected good surprises. Thank you for your warm thoughts, Susan. xo
I was going to answer this with “Me too,” and then I stopped… I wanted to think about what I’m actually worried about and it’s, mostly, small things. I worry that the tick tick ticking of the car means another fix – the third in three months. I worry that the felines in our home won’t reach an accord. I do worry about the drought and how it’s going to affect standards of living … but our garden is started and the cats aren’t fighting (today) and the car – well – it is what it is.
I stopped reading and watching the news at least a year ago, now. I feel pretty guilty about it – I’m a journalist by training – but I was getting too sucked in. It was too easy to not notice the sunshine and the flowers and the tiny things that make life so worth living. I’m not immune. I catch headlines and my husband and close friends will tell me if there’s something important going on, but largely, I focus on the here and now. And so I guess my answer would be that I’m a worrier by tendency but right now I’m doing well. And that’s actually a bit surprising!
I love love love that last stanza – the whole poem, yes, but the last stanza really gets me. 🙂 Happy Tuesday!
During my childhood, my family, especially my father, tuned into the news. It came in the form of the morning paper and the nightly news. We watched as a family and when I later had my family, I tried to adopt the same practice. I learned that what I found comforting in my childhood didn’t land the same way as an adult. Perhaps it is the result of knowing more, having a child, losing loved ones – I do believe tuning into the news creates another layer of unneeded anxiety that isn’t the best salve when you already tilt toward worrying.
Yes, I do worry, often it doesn’t happen until late at night, just when I’m trying to drift off to sleep and my brain, finally uninterrupted by children and screens and books begins to wander in dangerous territory. I try to curtail it because I know it isn’t helpful. But sometimes I can’t. But I do love that poem, especially those last wonderful lines.
Late at night is when my worry slithers up my skin and takes permanent hold in my head. I’ve tried to divert my attention to goodness when that happens, but it doesn’t always work. No words of wisdom here, Dana, but know that you aren’t alone.
Sigh. That poem! That poem! I feel like it’s partly my life story. I have always worried, and I have also always been able to find utter joy, but I even worry about that fading!
That poem is one that I’ve posted on my cork board to serve as a reminder – my default is always to worry. xo
I’m much better about not worrying so much…but I still do it. It’s a hard habit to break!
I agree, Tiffany. I tend to gravitate toward worrying and I’ve recognized it is when things feel out of control. When that happens, I repeat a phrase or mantra to calm my anxiety.