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.”) Letâ€™s say our son is hanging with disreputable friends, weâ€™re waiting to hear back on a medical test, our dad is becoming increasingly forgetful, and we canâ€™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 sonâ€™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. Whatâ€™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 Iâ€™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 Iâ€™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.
We can build a whole house! We’ll have to reserve one room that it’s okay to go into!
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.
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.
Wow, this is a different take. So compassionate and caring. He would always provide a startling and refreshing perspective on a problem.
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.
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.
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 â€œ 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 â€œ diaper bagsâ€ 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. Itâ€™s part of who you are, and thatâ€™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 heâ€™s right by you through it all.
It so helps to hear others dealing with the same â€œstuff!â€ In addition to the other â€œroomsâ€ mentioned, I also have a â€œpoor meâ€ room. Thanks for sharing.
I too struggle with the multiple worries in my head. It should have been my middle name. Whether itâ€™s a real or imagined worry, it is a waste of energy. I remember Fr Dan dismissing many of my concerns by simply saying â€œdonâ€™t you worry, Godâ€™s got this.â€
when I shared concerns about my teenage son. I think Jesusâ€™ words, â€œCome to me….. and I will give you restâ€ 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.
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.