“Anxiety is the greatest evil that can befall a soul, except sin. God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.” St Francis de Sales
“Is anxiety a disease or an addiction? Perhaps it is something of both. Partly, perhaps, because you can’t help it, and partly because for some dark reason you choose not to help it, you torment yourself with detailed visions of the worst that can possibly happen.” Frederich Buechner
Years ago, while driving through Louisiana on Mother’s Day, we listened to Garrison Keillor talking about his mother. I wish I could remember his exact words. It was about how she worried for everything and everybody, afraid that if she did not worry, something terrible was going to happen. Like a flower pot might fall on her son’s head.
I have a bit of Garrison’s mother in me. I worry. In fact I worry myself, not so much sick, but sleepless. Three a.m. is a great time to be aggressed by the fear of the moment. Two hours of sleep spent awake, tossing and turning in my bed, chasing the fears away, trying to reason them out, finding ways to foil the dangers they project on “the black screen of my sleepless nights” (Claude Nougaro had a great song on this theme more than fifty years ago), find me exhausted in the morning, hardly able to think or do much.
I have a deadline coming up which has been haunting me for weeks. With reasons. My plan does not allow for failure… It all made sense when I arranged for it. The results, if negative, won’t be the end of the world, but they will complicate our life. So, I need to succeed and I fear to fail. I am working on my project pretty much all the time and it’s eating me up.
My children understand. Most friends do. Some don’t. My younger grandson is praying for me. I believe in his prayers. My children and several friends pray as well. I do too of course. As if I could pray Godde into twisting the mechanisms of destiny so that I can reach my goal. Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera, we say in French. Help yourself, the heavens will help you. So I am doing my part. Or so I hope.
Yesterday morning, as we started our prayers, just after the Our Father, before the Daily Readings, came time to ask for the grace of the day. It came from the depth of my being: I pray for the grace to be free from anxiety. And, yes, my anxiety has subsided — probably thanks to the many prayers which are said for me… Still I always trust the Spirit to grant me the grace I have asked for. If I pray for the grace to be carried to the goalpost, the Spirit carries me… If I ask for the grace of joy, joy appears in my heart… The Spirit is good to me.
My deadline is in two days. Some more work, some more thinking, going again over some more points. Then, having done all that I could do, prayers included, I will be set free (nearly — I still have to wait for the results).
Once this worry is over, another one surely will appear, which I will fight off bravely. When that worry is dealt with, undoubtedly something will come to my mind and haunt the recesses of my brain, till exhausted at about five I will finally fall asleep, worry-free at last.
There has to be other ways of handling life. Ha!
Illustration: Fernandino Scianna, Sicily, Bagheria, 1987 (found here)