On worry

July 19, 2007 | Motherhood | 14 comments

Some of the best advice I’ve heard in recent years came from a homily our priest gave last December. He was talking about worry, and threw out some amazing statistics about what people worry about: I don’t recall the exact numbers, but the majority of things that people worry about are future events — and at least half of those never even happen.

This is even more true with me. As he spoke, I did a breakdown of what I tend to worry about, and at least 75% of it involves future events (hello, my name is Jennifer, and I am a control freak). And, thinking through the things that had been on my mind for the past few months, I realized how many of those worries never even came to pass!…Combine that with the time I spent dwelling on things that had already happened and were no longer within my control, and it was a pretty startling picture.

So I resolved to stop worrying about the future so much, and the results have been really interesting. I never cease to be amazed at how often things that I was just sure were going to happen ended up playing out entirely differently than I’d expected, weren’t as bad as I thought, or never even happened at all. At least a few times a month I find myself thinking, “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t waste time worrying about that, since it’s all moot now.” (Which is not to say, of course, that I don’t have any problems! Just that things often happen differently than I would have expected.)

And lately I’ve had to remind myself of this more than ever. Baby #3 is set to arrive at the end of next month, and I feel completely unprepared. My toddler has zero interest in potty training and the baby isn’t walking, so it looks like I’ll have three children in diapers and two that don’t walk (in a two story house)…and don’t even get me started on the money issues. I often feel like I’m barely getting through the days as it is, that I’m really not cut out for this, and just cannot imagine how this is going to work when I have a newborn.

Yet if I were to indulge in this worry I would probably find that the time I spend thinking about how challenging it’s going to be would outweigh the time I spend in actual challenging situations. The key, I think, is to simply live in the moment. Seek God at all times, and humbly go about my days, not agonizing about what tomorrow might bring or fixating on what happened yesterday. The bad moments full of frustration or fatigue or exasperation will come…but don’t allot them any more time than they need by pouring mental energy into them before and after the fact.

I was reminded of all this when I came across a wonderful excerpt from The Secret of a Happy Life by Fr. Lasance over at one of my favorite blogs, Starry Sky Ranch. It’s so beautiful…and so true…and so something I really need to remember in the coming months:

One secret of a sweet and happy Christian life is learning to live by the day…Life does not come to us all at one time; it comes only a day at a time. Even tomorrow is never ours until it becomes today, and we have nothing whatever to do with it but to pass down to it a fair and good inheritance in today’s work well done, and today’s life well lived.

It is a blessed secret this, of living by the day. Any one can carry his burden, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however heavy, till nightfall. Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day. Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, until the sun goes down. And this is all life ever means to us – just one little day. “Do today’s duty; fight today’s temptations, and do not weaken or distract yourself by looking forward to things you cannot see and could not understand if you saw them.” God gives us nights to shut down upon our little days. We cannot see beyond. Short horizons make life easier and give us one of the blessed secrets of brave, true, holy living.

14 Comments

  1. Sarahndipity

    Like you, I worry all the time. I have a really, really hard time just staying in the present. I never figured out how to “just stop worrying” – it’s not like flipping a light switch. That’s a great quote from Fr. Lasance. I still have a long way to go until I’m at that point, though.

    Good luck with your little ones! I’m sure you’ll do great. If it makes you feel any better, I think it’s pretty amazing that you manage to update your blog every day – I just have one kid and I have a hard time keeping mine updated.

  2. Anonymous

    Hi Jen,
    I have been reading your blog for a few months now and I think this is the first time I’ve commented. You are a wonderful writer and your humor and insights into your daily life are great. this particular post really speaks to me. This is something I too have struggled with lately, but am persevering at trusting in God more and letting go. I wish I learned this 20 years ago!
    Keep up the writing and enjoy those babes!

  3. Jennifer F.

    Thanks, Anon!!

    Sarahndipity –

    I never figured out how to “just stop worrying” – it’s not like flipping a light switch.

    I have it much easier on this front because I’m a lazy procrastinator. As long as it’s not a life-threatening matter, it’s actually been pretty easy for me to tap into my tendency to procrastinate when the temptation to worry hits. I just decide to put off thinking about it until later, which comes very naturally to me. 🙂

  4. Milehimama

    Hey Jen,
    My first two children were 13 months apart. Their sister arrived the next year!
    Start now on getting your little ones to take naps at the same time. Then, even if the new one isn’t asleep, you can at least have a quiet time to rest and snuggle!

    And, I’ve had 4 in diapers at one time. Just do it assembly line style. You’ll do fine.

    Mama Says

  5. Anonymous

    I have been and will continue to pray for you. I have a 3 YO (not potty trained in the least), an 18 month old and one due in October so I feel a kindredness to you in our state in life. The only way I make it through every day is prayer and wanted you to know I am sending them up for you as well.

    Michelle

  6. barbfromcincy

    My sister had a few tough years.
    She had twins when she already had a 4 year old and a 3 year old. When the twins were 5 months (and she was nursing them!) she found out that she was pregnant again. She couldn’t believe it! 5 months later, one of the twins was diagnosed with leukemia. 4 months after that, she had her 5th and had three in diapers including one going through chemo. Life was rough those next 3 years…
    She always says the dear Lord gave her the strength to get through one day at a time. Strangely enough, three months before her daughter was diagnosed with cancer, I felt the strongest urge to quit my job. I was going through infertility treatment at the time and everyone thought I was crazy to stay home. But the good Lord knew what he was doing because I was able to help her a lot during the next two years before we adopted our first child. God, indeed, does provide.
    That niece, who was only given a 20% chance of surviving because of her age at diagnosis, just graduated from college and is getting married in September. I always tell my niece that God must have a glorious plan for her life.
    That was our happy ending…
    Two years ago, our 7 year old nephew was diagnosed with brain cancer. We couldn’t believe another child in our family had cancer. Sadly, he died last September. A different ending but we know that God has a purpose in everything.
    It is difficult not to worry when these things happen,but I must admit that worrying wouldn’t have changed a thing. Easier to say than do, of course.
    I hope that all goes well with baby #3. God bless!!

  7. Ouiz

    As always, a fantastic post! (coming from another chronic worrier here)

    Don’t worry about the whole “3 in diapers” bit — we did it too, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I anticipated! And actually, it’s a blessing in disguise. Do you REALLY want to go to a store and deal with a potty training child who DESPERATELY has to go, while juggling a newborn and an 18 mth old? Just imagine getting all of you in a stall… not a pretty sight! *grin*

  8. Anonymous

    Jen:
    I have been reading your blog for a couple of months now…i can relate a lot. I was not an atheist, but I didn’t go to church and after my first son was born we went through RCIA and were baptized about 3 yrs ago. I have 3 boys 3yrs-6mo old 🙂 I am STILL potty training the oldest lol! So the diaper and walking thing no big deal…but the worrying/stress thing I also deal with a lot. I know it’s my problems and not the boys that get them into most of their trouble..what i mean is they don’t do what i want when i want how i want and then i get ANGRY so anyway, if you can keep that live it day by day thing going do it! I am working on it very diligently and need any prayers on it I can get 🙂 I agree w/ milehimama about the naps…it took a couple wks of crying and frustration to figure out how to get my 3 yr old to take a nap and leave his brother/s alone but i did it and that 1-2 hrs of peace is sooooo helpful! My other advice is bedtime, start early and be consistant…w/ the strength of my husband (if it were up to me they’d all be awake until midnight and sleeping in our bed still) we have no problems putting all 3 to bed a decent hour! Good Luck! 🙂 I can’t wait to hear about ur new adition when he/she gets here.
    Jenee

  9. beez

    Jen,

    I once read this great quote about the future:

    So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.

    I wish I could remember who said that. 😉

  10. Sarah

    Jen,

    I was never a worrier until I had kids. This was sooo frustrating to me, because I loved being laid back. My mom is a worrier, and it has always driven me crazy!;) Anyway, there’s just something about being a mom that makes it hard to relax. But, I think, all the more reason to work at relaxing, and resting in God’s perfect peace. After all, it’s all the rest we get!;)

    Four in diapers here, and your commenters are right: It’s not so bad. It’s too expensive, but it’s easier having everyone on the same train!

    Thanks for another great post!

  11. el-e-e

    I love this — thanks so much for sharing the quote and the link.

    🙂

  12. Patty in WA or Rover

    Here is one of my favorite quotes: “Aren’t you glad you worried beforehand? Otherwise you might not have got to worry at all!”

    Maybe the trick is to learn to use 2 vices together–procrastinate on worrying. grin

  13. Adoro te Devote

    Wow. Worry has been on my mind a lot. Shoot! I completely RESEMBLE this entire post! (Um…but for the references to motherhood and imminent motherhood…I’m single and unmarried, no kids)

    Anyway, having quit my job, what’s really strange is that I’m not worrying about what I SHOULD be worrying about, and that worries me. I should be worried about losing my house, getting my car repossessed (it’s a humble car, but I need it to get to the work I don’t have yet!) etc etc.

    And so much for the “one day” theory. I can’t go five minutes without giving in to some temptation.

    One day! Might as well be a lifetime.

    Maybe I’m just a critical case, but holiness isn’t within my true reach right now…I’m thrilled with a holy moment. I’m sure God is, too. (“Oh, good, she’s hit the 30 second mark! A new record!”)

  14. Michelle Potter

    This reminds me of what I say when people ask about having 6 kids: They only come one at a time! Having three in diapers isn’t bad; it’s rare that all three (or even two) will be badly in need of a change at the exact same time. And if they do… well that’s what I call “bathtime.” 😉

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