Thursday, January 26, 2012

Worry and One Day at a Time

Although I'm not an alcoholic (I rarely, if ever, even take a sip of anything alcoholic), I get a daily communication from AA from a friend. In this email, one of the most common themes is to take each day as it comes, not trying to live in the future and not dwelling in the past.

It's a good reminder for me because I'm guilty on both counts. Today, I find myself fretting about paying the taxes in April and cleaning out my mother's apartment when the inevitable day comes that she dies, while regretting some past decisions that, with the wisdom of 20-20 hindsight, I realize were wrong. I careen from worry to regret and back again.

I'm not alone in this perverse tendency to attempt to live sometime other than the here and now.  Oddly enough, someone just told me how upset they were because they had taken a cruise that left from the same port that the fated, capsized cruise ship Costa Concordia left from.  The part that would be funny if I didn't understand the thinking so well is that they took their cruise a year ago!  On a totally different cruise line!  

 I can hardly point fingers. My stomach is in knots, I can feel a headache creeping behind my eyes and I am having trouble concentrating on the work I have to do today. All because I'm worrying about the future and fretting about the past. I might as well be a cruise ship listing on its side for all the forward momentum that I'm creating.

What's really odd is that for several years, I thought I had banished worry. In fact, I even proposed writing a book about Conquering Worry which, fortunately, the publisher turned down. If I had written it,  today I'd be having to admit, like St. Thomas Aquinas, everything I had written was merely straw. 

I know for me worries tend to cluster around finances and health.  Well, not health so much as how to pay for a major illness if I happened to get one.  So I suppose my worries are really just about finances.  I could say that that's a common worry in this economic climate, but most of the people I know well aren't really feeling much effect from the recession.  Thinking about  how they planned better than I did doesn't help much. Nor does comparing my situation to theirs. It simply leads me back to regretting my own past decisions and perpetuates a vicious circle. 

So, because I do have some things that must be done today, I am going to make a deliberate attempt to "take all thoughts captive" and return to the present moment.  Because in this moment, this very minute, I am fine. I don't know what will happen 60 seconds from now, but for now, there are no wolves gnawing at my feet, I am still breathing.  Heck, I'm not even hungry!

Of all the commands that Jesus gave us, one is the most direct:  Do not worry or be anxious. Isn't it odd that we hear about so many other things, but when was the last time you heard a homily preached on the sinfulness of worry? Have you ever considered that worry could actually be a sin?

I find that somewhat sobering. 

Could it be that Jesus actually meant what he said?

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" Matt 6:24.

One day at a time.

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