Worry is merely “being creative” in the wrong way
Worrisome thoughts have me tumbling like a second-used dryer sheet, used up and limp and tangled in the damp. I couldn’t get a firm and fragrant thought to form if I tried.
I am the first to counsel the proverbial worry-wart. My response is always the same: I Listen. Empathize. Remind. I remind them to just hold on and that there are people who truly care, or that they have been through worse than this, or of the lessons that these things can teach us.
A silver lining can always be found.
I often have two very firm pieces of advice:
- You may not be able to change your situation, but you can change how you respond to it.
- Worry is nothing more than mental boredom when the mind needs to be creative. Do something creative — it redirects the mind to use that creativity for something positive.
So why can’t I take my own advice right now?
There are articles that need to be written, but they elude me. Poems tumble quietly in the folds of my mind but I can’t grasp them. Blog posts are trapped in the lint trap, unused, a dusty mound of thoughts undeveloped.
All I can think about this evening is the surgery I am having next week.
The words of the surgeon are a steady heat in my mind, a constant pulling, probing burden, encroaching and obtuse.
This is a bad situation…
There is very little bone…have to remove bone to remove the teeth…likely to fracture the remaining bone…possibly follow-up surgery at the hospital…to put a metal plate in your jaw…
I can’t say the surgery will help at all with the nerve pain…may be permanent…could be numbness for the rest of your life… (words from the surgeon)
I can’t focus on other words. My words. The creative words that speak to me when I am driving and I have no place to write them down. Those poetic phrases that grab me by the throat and take the breath sweetly from me:
Queen Anne’s Lace lifting their skirts,
Tip-toed and proud, the sedges and grasses
reach and sway, their gentle ballet
— Partially composed by the author while getting lost on the road
I left the dental surgeon’s office too upset to drive home. Instead, I got lost on the road. I drove and drove without purpose, completely lost in the stale, consuming brain-work of worry. I didn’t look for the silver lining — what is a silver lining anyway?
There’s always something beautiful to see when getting lost on the long stretches of country roads in the foothills and Piedmont of North Carolina. The road stretched before me, winding here and there, to what destination was of no matter to me.
Time eludes when the mind is bent with angular thoughts that don’t fit into each other; painful corners bumping into each other. Worry is internally noisy. It drowns out reason.
Fields, agricultural and early successional, expansive and rolling out in both directions. Signs depicting the leaping silhouettes of deer, of a tractor crossing, one even of a horse and buggy. I nearly turned the car around to get a picture of that but the thought was fleeting.
A two-storied white farmhouse stood awkwardly with a sloping porch roof, trying to tear itself away after years of weather and wear. I wondered of the man steering a green tractor into a turn; of the woman working the ground with a hoe, both in the heat of the afternoon sun. They move like a memory.
I drove until the sound of the songs on the radio came further into focus, less a noisy, distant intrusion, and more a melodic pull. The greens of the oak forests began to deepen and for a moment I celebrated the symmetrical circular spokes of a magnificent White Pine.
The world comes into focus if you give it enough time.
A fractured bone won’t be the end of the world. The surgery could go well. Unlikely does not mean impossible. Right?
As I turned on the GPS and made the request “Take me home,” I saw another dilapidated abandoned store. It was possibly a gas station at some distant point in time. There are a good many of these in the towns I drove through, gathered at the only stoplight or sitting out alone on a stretch of road. Only the churches and the occasional gas station seem to be still in use.
I stopped to take a picture of one of these buildings, the history of my state lingering there:
I love these images of North Carolina — I promised myself to take another drive, soon, and photograph some of these beautiful fields, road-side expanses of forest, fences stretching like matchsticks and strung together with wire. Cows. Churches and fields of headstones. Small discarded towns. A man on a green tractor.
Restoring the mind from worry is a difficult thing to do if you don’t take the time and make the effort. Just taking a drive — I meant to go hiking but just kept driving — helped my mind to have the space to rest. When worry threatens to derail you completely, give your mind something to chew on. Something beautiful to see. A craft that gives you focus and makes you think creatively. Paint something--anything. These small efforts go a long way to getting your mind back into a healthy space.
I can’t change my situation — but I can decide how to react to it. And you can too.