My gramma, who is quite Catholic, had some interesting things to say yesterday about what to do with our worries, and they were right on time, as it turns out.
Her church had a fine self-cultivation class (‘self-improvement’ is no longer in my vocab) where they were offered the visual exercise of emptying their worry box into God’s worry box.
And I pretty much love the mind-pictures of my worry box – filled to near-bursting, tattered and bent and broken down from overuse – and then God’s worry box, which stable and solid and as wide as the sea, where my largest worries become a mere drop of water.
I don’t mean all my worries, of course. Some things are earthly and mine to manage, but many things I worry on are well outside my scope to do anything about.
I can’t make things go how I want them to; I can’t create the future I’d prefer. Too much between this Here and my ideal There is out of my control. I can impact and affect it, though; I can put my foot on the gas, steer, and choose which road to take, but I didn’t draw the map, and I can’t control the weather.
I can’t control how my work is received; I can only do my best.
I can’t make someone love me by loving them.
I can’t make someone be kind to me by being kind to them.
I can do a lot of other things, though, including manage myself and my expectations. I can do me, and that’s plenty and challenging and enough.
Ya know, a coworker once karate-chopped the air with his hand, splitting the world in two to demonstrate the only two kinds of problems: My Problem (chop) and Not My Problem (chop).
And I’ve heard folks talk about dividing issues and situations into three: my business, your business, and God’s business.
Those seem a bit too simple, this Mine and Not Mine, and yet I imagine it serving me well.
Allegedly, even the Dalai Lama said there’s nothing to worry about, because if you can do something about it, then do something about it. And if you can’t, then let it go. Either way, there’s nothing left for you to worry about. Either it’s resolved, or you’re absolved. And that’s it.
This is important now because soon after I wrote you about how things have clicked into a good place, I set all my used and useless worries about those matters aside. Then immediately after that, fresh frets assembled themselves into a host of ways that what’s going right can go wrong.
And I said No.
No, we’re not going back to that. No, I don’t find this inner conversation useful, and here’s why: Those issues are beyond my control, I can’t predict the future (and neither can you, btw), and I’m not that unlucky. Also, I find it hard to believe I would be brought through what I’ve been through and have arrived where I am just to lose it all. So: No.
I shut that worry hole right on up.
And I closed my worry box, too. Me and Mimi and God and Moi will sort them out later, bit by bit, as needed.
My gramma also said, “Don’t let the Devil disturb this life God made just for you.”
And while I don’t believe in some dude with a pointed tail and red pajamas, I am very aware of my inner imp and other devils inside as well as evils in and of the outside world.
Ya know, these words around worry came from many corners – from old folks and young and old, women and not, from last night and nearly twenty years ago and moments in between. Common themes spread that far and wide and long tend to be true, yeh? And essential.
So this is the new practice: To clarify what I can and can’t control, what is and isn’t mine to manage, and where my concerns begin and end. And to create a place inside where I am undisturbed, and live there.
In the normal state of consciousness the mind is like a lamp that flickers in the winds of time, but in supreme oneness: ‘Then his soul is a lamp whose light is steady, for it burns in a shelter where no winds come.’ (Bhagavad Gita 6.19).
~ Juan Mascaró, The Dhammapada: The Path of Perfection
I hope you have the words and imagery you need to calm your inner waters, and the wherewithal to use them when they’re needed. It can be difficult to get enough distance from the moment or the feeling to sort things into their bins – but do.