The Worry Room

Father Dan used to imagine that our minds have a separate compartment reserved for worrying. ( I wrote about this on 4/4/20 in “Patting the Puppy.”) Let’s say our son is hanging with disreputable friends, we’re waiting to hear back on a medical test, our dad is becoming increasingly forgetful, and we can’t remember the last time we saw our wallet. Plenty of guests for the worry room. We ping from one travail to the other, fretting away the hours of our life. But then, Father Dan would say, suppose we learn that the son’s good influence is helping his friends, our test comes back negative, our dad is merely distractible, and our wallet slipped under the seat of the car. Hurray! For a short time, we feel relieved and grateful, but soon enough other worries begin creeping in. What’s that sound my car engine is making? How will I ever afford to fix it? We forget to shut the worry door, and a whole new set of problems rushes into that (metaphorical) space in our brain.

The last few weeks I’ve been obsessing over a legal worry. I tried channeling Father Dan wisdom, tried meditating and prayer, tried talking to friends and experts. All the efforts helped, but even so I pretty much took up residence in the worry room, especially in the wee hours of the night.

Thankfully, the issue has been resolved, and I’m still in a relieved and grateful mode. But worries about Covid 19, the start of school, and a Cold War with China are banging away at the door. Somehow the simple concept of a room that wants to fill up, no matter what, helps me. It strengthens me to bolt the lock, at least for awhile.

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10 Responses to The Worry Room

  1. Kathy says:

    We can build a whole house! We’ll have to reserve one room that it’s okay to go into!

  2. Kathy says:

    Father Dan and also these comments remind me that in the midst of worry I have fooled myself into thinking I’m doing something by worrying! That it’s virtuous and helpful in some way! Also the “daily discipline” is so important. Father Dan always maintained that these efforts are never accomplished in one try. He always emphasized the process.

  3. Kathy says:

    A friend told me that her counselor once suggested, “Don’t open that door.” In other words, if you know a certain train of thought leads you to a bad, obsessive place, don’t open the door in the first place. The metaphor of various rooms can help us, I think.

  4. Kathy says:

    Wow, this is a different take. So compassionate and caring. He would always provide a startling and refreshing perspective on a problem.

  5. Kathy says:

    It could be frustrating in the short run, right? I would want a solution! How do I fix this? Instead he’d counsel be to accept what was–still one of the biggest challenges I face.

  6. Rheba Heggs says:

    Kathy, thank you for this post. I remember talking with Father Dan about my daughters’ embrace of Islam shortly after my brother died. It really rocked them both because he passed away right before Kira graduated from college and Kendra graduated from high school. Their Uncle Roy was the father figure in their lives, and there was nothing I could do about it. He suggested that I embrace the change, learn about the faith. This was a few years before 9/11. I am so grateful for his counsel because I was able to love my kids fully rather than obsess over perceived loss.

  7. Michele garrett says:

    I went to confession once with Father Dan and talked to him about the fact that I was living in the worry room and could not get out of that place. He held my hand,ever so gently,and his eyes twinkled . He said “ thank you, and every mom out there- who loves us enough to live in that worry room – because that is how humans have survived- if you look at moms they worry and so prepare for every potential eventuality. They carry “ diaper bags” for life that are filled in every nook and cranny with anything that could be needed . He said as a man, I might remember to bring the baby , but probably not the bottle, the diaper, the change of clothes, a toy, a book,a thermometer, some Tylenol …mothers who worry about all kinds of things have kept us all alive. It’s part of who you are, and that’s ok as long as you always remember you are not alone with all that worry – God knows every single worry that crosses your heart – and he’s right by you through it all.

  8. Mary Mudler says:

    It so helps to hear others dealing with the same “stuff!” In addition to the other “rooms” mentioned, I also have a “poor me” room. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Annie Kachurek says:

    I too struggle with the multiple worries in my head. It should have been my middle name. Whether it’s a real or imagined worry, it is a waste of energy. I remember Fr Dan dismissing many of my concerns by simply saying “don’t you worry, God’s got this.”
    when I shared concerns about my teenage son. I think Jesus’ words, “Come to me….. and I will give you rest” was a principle that he lived by, in his approach to prayer and times of solitude he found solace. We live in a such a fast paced society, but getting away physically and mentally is the key to peace. It starts with each one of us and requires a daily discipline.

  10. Roger Talbott says:

    Great image!! I’ll have to use that. I think it may be next to the angry room and the self-pity room. Doesn’t take long for me to move from one to the other.

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