What,Me Worry?

“If it can be solved, there is no need to worry. If it can’t be solved, worry is of no use.”  The Dali Lama shares his wisdom with the world. And I admire the truth of Zen – the goal being to live in spiritual chill with the universe. Intellectually I can go there. Emotionally is more difficult. And my mind has only so much control without regular exercise. The problem is that the only part of the gym my intellect likes to visit is the problem solving section. So mentally I conjure up all the facts to wrestle, align and realign all the sequences necessary for things to go well (or badly, the work out can happen either way). But rarely, if ever, do I finish these mental gymnastics and feel refreshed. Just compulsive. Especially late at night. When anxiety delays sleep, my brain’s answer is to increase problem-solving repetitions – to worry.

The only secret I have found to improving my emotional health is to retrain my brain to tackle a different exercise regimine. This approach requires the exercise of the will. So mentally I must choose a spiritual focus for repetitions. Here, turning to Matthew 6 adds to the wisdom of the Dali Lama’s pithy saying. Instead of focusing inward, Jesus says, focus outward. Look at nature, the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the evidence of the love that upholds the universe. Accept today’s troubles. There will be more tomorrow.  But love goes there ahead of you. Stay aware of the blessings of life today. Breathe in the peace of today. Look for it. You’ll find it. Look again. Repeat. The cycle of worry must be broken by interruption.

Recently, a band named “The Sanctified Grumblers” played in South Bend at the Friday by the Fountain program. I would have liked to hear them play, but even more to ask about their oxymoronic name.  To be sanctified in the Christan tradition is to be approved by God, to be made holy, to be made ready for God’s use. Yet the Israelites had to wander 40 years in the desert to get rid of the Grumblers in their midst. So I have always seen sanctification as the Bible’s term for being in a Zen-like state. To be above grumbling or worry.  Is it possible to hold both states?  To both be holy and grumbly at the same time?  We better hope so!  How else can the Creator give us the freedom to choose and learn the lessons in this troubled world?

So all of us are works in progress, Sanctified Grumblers, if you will. The term makes me laugh because I know how often I am trapped in those two opposing forces.  When I don’t laugh and recognize the irony, I get trapped in worry. I don’t realize I have a choice to refocus outside my grumbly self.

As I write this, I don’t know what the future holds (like anyone does?).  I don’t know if Ron has reached a plateau in his recovery. I don’t know if bringing him home is a good idea. Or if I will be physically and emotionally strong enough to provide the total care he will need on a daily basis. So much to tumble around in my worry drum, to inwardly grumble about. And yet I choose (again and again, as needed) to release those fears. To accept this reality. To embrace that God knows the needs we have and will have. To trust we are being made perfect in some way. To watch the sunrise and choose to live today the best I can. I will likely grumble some. But overall I am making progress. I am letting go of the need to control tomorrow and live in this moment. And that’s as much perfection as needed from sanctified Grumblers.

Management by chaos . . . Who me?



I have scolded close friends and family before about what I call “management by chaos (MBC).”  Sometimes when human beings don’t know how to solve one life problem, they create another one. They spend money they don’t have, take on another responsibility they don’t have time for, or pick a fight with a spouse instead of addressing the difficulty that underlies the diversion. In small doses, it’s not a toxic behavior. We’ve all solved problems by tackling something else.  My favorite avoidance device is shopping, preferably clothes sale shopping, but even the grocery or hardware store will suffice in a pinch. In these moments, we decompress a bit, get our minds off the presenting problem, and get ready to face the “elephant in the living room” that we’ve been trying to avoid dealing with.  Healthy folks eventually do return to solve the problem.  When we are in an unhealthy state we create some sort of other chaos in order to avoid facing the problem all together. I’m sure there is some specific psychological tern for this particular brand of avoidance behavior, but I lack the vocabulary. So I just made up my own term of observation – management by chaos.

In facing the challenges that stroke has brought into our lives, I have had enough chaos thrust upon me that there’s not been a lot of time or energy for manufacturing my own. Until now. I fear I have perhaps done the very thing that I’ve warned others against. I’ve created my own unnecessary “initiating action.”  That’s the writers term for a plot twist that has to move the story forward because there is no turning back for the main character. The new event changes everything. The storyline is forever altered. In real life, these are the moments we don’t usually want to create for ourselves, especially when the act of living itself creates so many for us.

Ok. By now I hope you are asking, “what the heck has she done?!”  Or you’ve seen the photo and figured it out. When we came home to Plymouth, I decided to bring a puppy into our lives. Ron was doing better and better. I was lonely. I can’t have a cat to keep me company because of allergies. Ron’s nursing facility is “pet friendly” and what might cheer him (and me) up more than a warm ball of fluff (hair, not fur, so hypoallergenic!) to distract, amuse, and comfort us. Of course, now Ron has had this major health downturn the last week. He seems to be climbing out inch by inch, but the prognosis is not long-term hopeful. What was I thinking??  I have blundered into a major management-by-crisis situation!  Now I have to take on the care and feeding of another little life while I have this major need to care for my husband. My original MBC delusion was, “I should do this now so that when Ron is ready to come home, the puppy will be more settled, trained, and I can then focus on Ron while the dog is simply a joy for us both.  Well, I’m sure he will grow on cat-person Ron, right?”

So now you know my secret. I am just as prone to delusional thinking as the rest of the human race. But isn’t he adorable?  Well, at least his picture is. The breeder tells me he is. And he was born on my late sister’s birthday. His name is from one of the four musketeers (he had three other litter mates) in the novel by Alexander Dumas.  And in Greece Mount Athos is called “The Holy Mountain.”  Athos was one of the gargantua in Greek mythology, but our little Athos should only be five or six pounds full grown. Sigh. I’ve really done it this time. This is worse than the Turkish rug I surprised Ron with when I visited ancient Ephesus. But he grew to appreciate the lovely handmade carpet.  Surely this will work out, too.  She says, hopefully.

Regardless, Athos arrives tomorrow. I wonder if all my friends who’ve said they would be glad to help me any way they can will stretch the offer to include puppy sitting?

Alia jacta est.  that’s what Caesar said when he crossed the Rubicon: the die is cast!  So this either will work out better than I can imagine, or I will have yet another problem to solve.  Only time will tell. But, once again, I am in it for the long run.