Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Don't Worry, Be Happy...or at least, Calm
I am less than two hours away from an appointment with a dental surgeon. He is scheduled to pull out a wisdom tooth, and doesn’t expect it to be any big deal.
So why do I feel as though I’m heading into open-heart surgery? I keep imagining the absolute worst possible scenarios: Dr. P slips with the pliers and puts a hole in my cheek. Or he causes bleeding that somehow won’t stop. Or I get an infection that snakes its way through my body. Or he finds that it isn’t just the wisdom tooth that’s cracked, but all the rest of the teeth are too, so he has to pull the whole set.
You get the picture.
So maybe my husband was right the other day when he came up with a new word to describe what I do, day in and day out.
He is clever, that husband of mine. He knows of what he speaks. He sees me get up every morning and head straight to my Native American blanket, outfitted with a candle and special crystals and stones and a few feathers and such. He watches while I spend 20 or 25 minutes sitting cross-legged on the mat, focusing on my breathing and generally, trying to realign my brain.
He also knows full well that when I get up off the mat, I will lapse back into my cataclysmic thinking.
I’ve been meditating now for maybe 13 years. So why am I still the queen of "negitation"? I’ve been through my share of hardships. But in the end, I’ve triumphed. And generally, I’ve been a very lucky person. I have blessings galore in my life, and even more reasons for optimism.
Part of the issue: growing up, I probably earned the equivalent of a Ph.D. in worry by the time I was 10. My mom herself will admit that she’s the original nervous Nellie. One itty-bitty example: my freshman year in college, we walked into my dorm room and Mom headed straight for the window, which had a sill about 18 inches from the floor. Immediately, she began to fret that I would fall out of that window.
I love my mom, dearly, but I hate the fact that she – and I—worry the way we do. There is no reason, as my dad often points out, to open your umbrella before it rains. Or even, for that matter to carry the umbrella in the first place.
A year ago, when the whole nation (or at least the Democratic half of it) was reveling in the thrilling possibility of hope and change offered by the Obama candidacy, I was secretly dreading his election. Why? Because it meant that my husband and I would move to Washington, D.C. for his job.
I know I know, everyone and their cousin was telling me how silly I was. They were raving about how DC would be the most exciting place in the Universe to live. But for my own set of neurotic reasons, I was terrified of the move. And so, in my heart of hearts, even though I couldn’t stand John McCain or that silly running mate of his, part of me was hoping he would win.
I can hear the hissing and booing coming in through the screen. I am not proud of it, I'm just willing now to face up to how stupid I was. The moment we arrived, I realized, hey, this could be kind of ….fun!
Indeed, moving to DC has been quite a splendid thing, both personally and professionally. I really love Washington, and its monumental buildings (all the architecture is awe-inspiring.) I enjoy my teaching job. We have a cool apartment in the heart of downtown, a few blocks from the White House. And I really value all the people I’ve met.
And so I look back a year ago and think, what a waste of time all that worrying was.
Of course I’ve grown to love it so much that now I am tempted to worry about moving back.
But that’s where I am drawing the line.
In the best tradition of meditative practice, I am now asking the universe for help in my quest to stop negativating. I am telling myself every which way I can that there is no purpose in turning the future gloomy, and assuming that the worst will happen. I do not want to forecast rain and thunder or hurricanes or tsunamis when the sun is shining overhead and there’s nothing but a gentle breeze behind my head.
So I sit here. I take a breath in, and when I breathe out, I consciously think about letting go of any of those awful thoughts, as if I were flinging each one of them off the top of a mountain.
I breathe in and out several times. I take my hands from the keys momentarily...
And let them rest on my knees. I let my shoulders sag.
I focus on the breath filling my chest and
Now, I am not so concerned about what is going to happen with my tooth. I am ok in this moment.
I imagine myself smiling, leaving the dentists’ office. I imagine myself sitting on a warm sandy beach. (OK well, that part might be a bit of a stretch.)
The point is, I am setting my intention to give up the worry. I am asking the universe for help. I am, in effect, giving up my will, my fear, to some greater power (isn’t this how AA works? Isn’t this what recovering alcoholics do day in and day out, yield their will?)
Well, so, I am doing it in this moment, because that’s all I have. We can only exert our will, or yield it up, moment by moment.
I will go forward to the dentist’s office, without popping an Ativan – even though Dr. P’s instructions say I can.
I am calm. I think. For now.