Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Joy and Worry and Guilt

The list I mentioned in the last post was helpful. I headed it "things that are driving me nuts" and took off. Some things, once listed, took care of themselves. Others will find their way into conversations with family and doctors. Some fall under that "things I cannot change" category and I simply have to accept them.

I don't have to accept them driving me nuts, though. I have some control over my attitude. I puzzled for a while over the item "being so crabby and down hearted." Then I did a Google search (I think it was "joy, God") and I found a sermon by Tom Brown called Joy of the Lord. The ideas that joy gives us strength to fight our battles, that joy is not dependent on circumstance, and that God calls us to be joyful always have given me new energy. I put Nehemiah 8:10: "Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" in my wallet and have been remembering it each day.

On the other hand, I've found myself obsessively worrying about a particular situation each night after I go to bed. My sister-in-law points out that, if I am worrying, I am not in the present moment. I realized that when I'm feeling guilty (another nasty habit I have) I'm also not in the moment. Worry is about the future and guilt is about the past. I can combine both and worry about how guilty I'm going to feel—or feel guilty about worrying so much, but I have years of experience; don't try this at home!

To be practical, I need to prepare for the future. Life is richer when I remember and honor the past. What keeps those activities from descending into worry and guilt? I think it is the implied invitation to action. It's the "so what?"

Worrying, for instance, about what will happen if my hands become severely disabled (can't work, can't write, can't make art...etc,) does little but flood my body with nasty chemicals and depress my spirit. I need to ask my worrying self "how likely is it?" If I think the worry likely enough to happen, I can move into preparation. I can research assistive techniques and technologies that can make it possible for me to keep working, writing, and making art.

Guilt is similar. Much of the time, I feel guilty because I'm not perfect. So, again, there's a discernment question: "Is this guilt valid?" If so, then my action item is to attempt to make amends. (See steps eight through ten of the Twelve Steps.)

What if I'm worrying or feeling guilty without cause? That's true most of the time, in my case. There's nothing for it but to turn it into mindfulness meditation, bringing myself back to a more positive thought. I have to understand that, chances are, this will be a practice, not something I do once and complete.

Here are some reminders (for myself) of thoughts to which I can return:
  • Let go and let God.
  • One day at a time.
  • "Worry is a misuse of the imagination." (Dan Zadra)
  • Cast your burden upon the LORD and God will sustain you, (Psalm 55:22)
  • Breathing in, I return to the moment. Breathing out, I smile.


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