Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, September 07, 2007

Ain't No Use Putting Up Your Umbrella 'Til it Rains (Alice Rice)

By Kerry Blair

If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system. ~William James

I may, in fact, be queen of that planet William James was talking about. Over the course of my life I have worried about virtually any-and-everything there is to fret over. I vividly remember being four years old and lying in bed night after night begging God to keep coyotes from jumping in the window to eat me up. No, I’d never known anybody who’d been bitten by a coyote, let alone eaten by one. I’d never even seen a coyote in my whole life, but I worried myself sick just the same.

By the time I was a teenager I’d mostly stopped worrying about coyotes – but only because I was now obsessed with zits, nuclear war, making a B in geometry, dwindling global resources, prom, children starving in Africa, not getting a college scholarship, plane crashes, hurricanes, volcanoes, sick kittens, contracting malaria . . . you know, this list could go on indefinitely. If it headlined the news, was discussed in the lunchroom, or mentioned anywhere in passing, I worried about it.

When I was in my early twenties, Quincy almost sent me over the edge. Every week Jack Klugman (et al) offered something new – and horrific! – over which to despair. Anthrax. Mad Cow Disease. Plague. My hands shook as I turned off the TV every Wednesday night, and I went to bed certain everybody I knew would soon die horribly of the malady du jour. (Seriously, these episodes made being eaten alive by coyotes look attractive.) After a particularly graphic episode about botulism I swore off canned foods for eight months. (Okay, that’s a lie. It’s been twenty-five years and it’s still hard for me to open a can of chili, let alone eat it.)

Now that I’m growing older, I’m thinking more and more about abdicating my crown to the Planet of the Worriers and immigrating to Earth. My Nana lived here, and she was the sanest, healthiest, happiest person I have ever known. Of course, she kept all her worries in a box.

No, really, she did! She had a wooden recipe box with this quote from Hugh Blair (no relation) on the cover: Worry not about the possible troubles of the future; for if they come, you are but anticipating and adding to their weight; and if they do not come, your worry is useless; and in either case it is weak and in vain, and a distrust of God’s providence.

I was an adult before I understood how worry is “a distrust of God’s providence,” but I understood the concept of a worry box early on. My grandmother had been widowed three times – the first in the midst of the Great Depression where she was literally penniless with two little boys to feed and clothe. She learned then that she could not cope and worry at the same time, so she wrote down all her worries, put them in a wooden box, put the box away where she couldn’t see it, and then spent twenty-three worry-free hours of every day coping as best she could. In the twenty-fourth hour she opened the worry box, cried, worried . . . and prayed. When she shut the box, she said, she could always sleep because she knew that while the worries themselves may not have passed, the time to obsess over them had. She simply left them in God’s hands and went to bed. Somehow, He always managed, even when she couldn’t.

Here on earth there are still earthquakes and airplane crashes and hunger and sick kittens and botulism and – you know what? – I even see a coyote or two every week on the back roads around Chino Valley! Those are pretty much the least of my worries, though. I now have two elderly, ailing mothers, a daughter with an ovarian cancer scare, and a son in Iraq. Since I must worry, I do it faithfully at 3 o’clock every afternoon – except on weekends or Wednesdays when I have Cub Scouts, or Mondays when I'm ususally driving somebody to a doctor’s appointment, or Fridays when I'm cleaning the bird feeders or . . . well . . . sometimes I just forget. Turns out that the God of my grandmothers has never failed me, either. As my faith increases, my worry decreases and so there are days that I honestly have to work at that worry thing.

Which reminds me of one more of my favorite quotes about worry. A sportscaster once asked long-time Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda if he was worried about a rain delay going into the World Series. Lasorda replied, “The only way I'd worry about the weather is if it snows on our side of the field and not theirs.”

Hmm. Maybe that wasn't a good choice for a quote. I'm pretty worried about the DBacks maybe not winning the West, come to think of it. I'd better go put that in my worry box right now or I'll obsess about it all day! (And you thought I didn't have priorities . . . )


16 Comments:

At 9/07/2007 3:21 PM, Blogger Lori Nawyn said...

Kerry,

I really enjoyed this post. I thought I was the worry queen!
I, too, have a botulism phobia. Here's how bad it is: when I need to open a can, I put a few drops of water on the lid then drive the tip of a knife through it. Someone taught me a long time ago that if the water sucks into the can, there's no botulism. If the water sprays up, you're in trouble. Pretty nutty, huh? Yeah, I should be going on Doctor Phil for help.

Seriously, I love the idea of a worry box. What a great children's story it would make!

 
At 9/07/2007 4:36 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

The worry box is such a great idea. I'm going to have to start one. Thanks for a thought provoking post.

 
At 9/07/2007 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you just worry? I worry, too, but I tend to "horribilize," as my mother calls it. I always come up with the worst-case scenario!

The worry box is a good idea. I should adopt it, except I'm worried that it would slide off the dresser at night, make a noise and wake me up, making me think that there are burglars coming to steal our satellite receiver with my Dr. Who recordings on the hard disc. Then I really wouldn't be able to sleep!

Just kidding! :D Melanie Goldmund

 
At 9/07/2007 5:15 PM, Blogger Jon said...

You think your worries are bad, I have to worry about when the next Samantha Spade novel will come out...

(Oh, and getting up at 7:30 tomorrow to go to Jeff's class.)

 
At 9/07/2007 5:21 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

I'm a pro-hand-wringer, and my hair color periodically reflects the amount of worry I allow in my life, but once in a while I remember a favorite saying:

When you get all wrinkled up with worry and care, it's time to get your faith lifted. ;)

Excellent blog, Kerry.

 
At 9/07/2007 8:43 PM, Blogger Annette Lyon said...

Wonderful thoughts, Kerri. I look forward to your posts each week; they're like little pearls of wisdom.

 
At 9/08/2007 1:36 AM, Anonymous marlene said...

Thank you for the blog. I needed that!

I had a friend who said when something really rattled you to think of the worst possible outcome, figure out how you would deal with it, then relax because you know you can handle it. That helps when you realize you can deal with it, but it gets really scarey if you can't come up with a solution...

I've worried so much I fallen prey to my own technique. All it takes is to have a certain fear or word come into my head and it streams through my thoughts as though it was following a pattern heading straight to a pre-established outcome--like when a light switch is turned on and the current immediately follows through a pre-installed curcuit and turns on the light. It has gotten to be almost like a scientific experiment trying to find out how to break the circuit, although writing things down seems to help--I don't have to remember why I'm worried about something because it is all there for me to refer back to if I need to. It works kind of like the box, I think.

But a lots of times I get caught with the fear flowing and don't even realize it's from my patterned habit. I was doing that today when I read your blog, and the reminder really helped. . Thank you Kerry! I also admire how you are able to keep such a wonderful sense of humor through everything. Has that always been part of your personality or did you train yourself to see the humorous side of things?

 
At 9/08/2007 1:58 AM, Blogger Jon said...

(and my apologies, I meant Samantha Shade, not Spade.) Samantha Spade is on Without a Trace. =)

 
At 9/08/2007 9:04 AM, Blogger Anne Bradshaw said...

Oh, how well I relate to ALL this. Thanks, Kerri, for such a novel (no pun intended) idea. That worry box is a must-have. I bet it would be a best seller if you were to market them.

I read somewhere that we draw trouble to ourselves if we worry enough about something. Since realizing this, I've become better at praying a worry away, and leaving things to the Lord after all I can do, but it's not an easy or quick fix. Takes practice. Yeah, that box could really help the process.

 
At 9/08/2007 9:45 AM, Blogger Jennifer Leffler said...

Here is a quote by John Glenn (Astronaut and U.S. Senator) that has helped me handle worry:

"The greatest antidote to worry, whether you're getting ready for spaceflight or facing a problem of daily life, is preparation.....the more you try to envision what might happen and what your best responses and options are, the more you are able to allay your fears about the future."

 
At 9/08/2007 12:20 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

I appreciate all the great comments -- even Jon's! (I'm not the only one who ripped off Sam Spade? Who knew. I've just got to start watching TV! :-) Thanks! You've all made good points and given me more to think about.

There's only one that doesn't work for me. (And it's ME, not the technique.) The John-Glenn-Extrapolation thing is the worst for me. (In fact, I strongly recommend that it not be tried at home by anybody with a tenuous grasp on reality and/or sanity!)

Like Melanie, my extrapolations turn to "horriblizations" -- and I'm superb at them! Say I start with a niggling little worry about my daughter driving home alone on the dark roads after her Tuesday night class. If I put that worry in my box with a prayer (and leave it to God) by the time 3 o'clock Wednesday afternoon rolls around, I can throw it away because it's over and forgotten. But if I extrapolate that little worry, I am fully capable of imagining all kinds of horrible -- and truly bizarre scenarios. Honestly, I am the type who could still lay awake for hours after she returned home safely thinking, "But what if she HAD been abducted by aliens or kidnapped by international terrorists or overcome by zombies? What then?" (While I'm not watching TV, I'm too often reading Koontz and King and their ilk.)

On the other hand, I'm probably about as prepared as any mother could ever be for a car to pull up in front of the house to disgorge two solemn, uniform-clad Marines. But, as Jennie could tell you, death isn't the worst thing that can happen to your child in Iraq, and if I even begin to contemplate what IS the worst, I am far beyond Armaggedon and well into the realm of lost souls before sunrise.

And, truly, isn't that one of the curses of being a writer at heart?

This is longer than my blog, but I have to add a note to Lori. 1)Honest-to-goodness, I put water on the top of the can of chilis this morning. :-) Where have you been all my life?

 
At 9/08/2007 12:34 PM, Anonymous Jennie Hansen said...

I once received some very good advice from Janath Cannon. She said I should look at worries as falling into two categories 1) things I can do something about and 2) things I can't do anything about. The ones I can do something about, do it. The ones I can't, let God worry about them. I think worry is a natural byproduct of being a parent, but now I find I frequently have to remind myself that my children are all adults and it's their turn to worry about me. With the recent loss of my father, I'm no longer part of the sandwich generation caught between worrying about my children and worrying about my parents. I've suddenly become the older generation. Strangely enough though, I can intellectualize myself out of worry, but my heart never gets the message--it still finds plenty to worry about. It's hard to break a lifelong habit.

 
At 9/08/2007 12:53 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

Kerry said, "And, truly, isn't that one of the curses of being a writer at heart?"

Yes, yes, and yes. Having too vivid of an imagination is both a curse and a blessing. I have mild claustrophobia. Elevators are fine, as are planes, etc. But Caves are very, very, tough. With that being said, I can totally mess myself up on a plane if I start thinking about how small the space really is and what might happen in an emergency.

I was sitting on the balcony of a cruise ship outside my state room a couple of years ago and I couldn't help looking down at the ocean and imagine falling overboard. Or even worse having one of my kids fall overboard. Of course then right after we got back it happened to three different people.

 
At 9/08/2007 1:35 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Marvelous post, Kerry -- and what a wonderful grandmother you had.

 
At 9/08/2007 3:54 PM, Blogger James Dashner said...

This is weird. I did my guest blog for this Monday way before I saw this, I promise! Kerry, you and I must be on the same brain wave.

Oh well, nothing wrong with a theme.

 
At 9/09/2007 1:46 AM, Blogger Janette Rallison said...

You and your grandmother amaze me. I worry whenever I'm out and I hear sirens. I'm convinced that someone at my house is bleeding/unconcious/died. Yeah, I guess writers do have vivid imaginations.

 

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