Anybody out there old enough to remember the old MAD Magazine icon Alfred E. Neuman? Every issue donned his face with the same goofy look of complete oblivion to life. Not a care in the world. That goofy face should have donned the cover of one of the greatest books ever written on needless worry: Dale Carnegie’s “Stop Worrying and Start Living” written in the 1930’s. It’s truths are as timeless and priceless today as they were then.
Some of these same truths were extolled in one of Diane Robertson’s latest UFI blog posts on Endurance. Thanks Diane. You are right. There is an abundance of pain, suffering, sadness, depression, and endless worry that can engulf you if you allow it. How comforting to know that you have the internal power to live happily and at peace amidst the world’s turmoil. Many believe, in fact, that our very purpose here on earth is to be tried and tested.
Will we actually learn the lessons and gain the “tools” to overcome adversity? No one is exempt from avoiding life’s difficulties. In fact we’ve all heard the old adage, “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” Robertson described how giving birth ten times changed her fear of intense pain into a beautiful miraculous event. She compared that pain and suffering to other life challenges. The pain is still intense, but as we mature and learn to endure, we begin to triumph over the pain. We become stronger.
But what if we don’t learn how to effectively deal? What if we choose, and yes, it’s a choice, to cower and shrivel in fear? (Let me say here and now that I am not a counselor or in anyway a professional know-it-all about mental health. I just speak from my own experience with family, friends, and acquaintances.)
Carnegie talks about the devastating effects of worry. Does it ever help any situation? As an accomplished worrier, I say no. He states that “Seventy percent of all people could cure their own sickness if they just let go of their fears and worries.” If you google the number of people in hospitals because of shear worry, you’ll be shocked. Worry literally makes you sick and can kill you. “What if I lose my job? What if my daughter gets kidnapped? What if we lose our house? What if my child becomes an addict? What if my son doesn’t make the team?”
These are legitimate issues! But does it help to worry?
Just this past weekend, I spent three days at a beautiful cabin in Arizona quilting with friends. Three of these valiant women are currently dealing with a drug-addict child. It was interesting to listen to the different “stages” each parent was experiencing.
Their level of worry and fear was directly related to the amount of time this has been affecting their families. In these cases, all are sons. A consistent thread through each was no matter the amount of love, money, help, encouragement, bailing out, tough love, screaming, etc. the son continued to use drugs despite the desperation and attempted help from the family. Why? Because it has to come from the user.
If they choose to turn their life around, they will, if not, they won’t. That simple. So the more effort, blood, sweat, and tears the family member exhausts, the more worried and ill they become while the user seems to maintain the status quo mixed with periodic cocktails of quilt, remorse, sadness, blame and empty “This time I really am sorry.”
One mom told of her friend who became anorexic and weak over her son’s drug abuse until one morning, she was found dead in bed. Literally died of a broken heart. What a price to pay over a situation you virtually have no control over. One of these moms has been going through this with her son so long, she’s finally realized that she was giving power to her son to determine her life of happiness or sadness.
She is no longer bailing him out, giving him money, letting him live with her, etc. Sound harsh? He was using and abusing just as often before this decision. Ironically, another one of these cute moms was in charge of this fun event of ours. Yet after hours of preparation to make everything perfect for us, she got a call that her son had “used” once again and was in jail. She rushed home in tears to be with him in court the next day and “support” her son. She gave up her coveted time to relax with friends to be with him for the 22nd time. Yup. 22nd. Great or enabling mom? All the fear, worry, tears, and suffering on her part may influence him but will never change him. His mother’s great and sincere anguish is making her sick, and will never change him without his heart’s consent. The English poet John Milton penned the words:
“The mind is it’s own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of Hell, a hell of Heaven.”
(Paradise Lost 1667)
Though over 300 years old, truer words were never spoken. Our minds are fiercely powerful for good or bad. And oftentimes, we create our own heaven or hell within our own minds. At one point Carnegie had consulted with Dr. Israel Bram about the best treatment for over active thyroid as it related to fear and worry.
This was printed and hanging above his office door.
“Relaxation and Recreation, The most relaxing recreating forces are a healthy religion, sleep, music, and laughter. Have faith in God-learn to sleep well- Love good music- see the funny side of life-And health and happiness will be yours.”
Many of us completely bypass the tender moments of our lives as we look beyond today. Live in the moment and chose to look only for the good in everyone and everything.
My plea for all of us is to take Dale Carnegie’s, Diane Robertson’s and Alfred E. Neuman’s advice and “stop worrying and start living”. Yesterday is in the past and we never have a guarantee of tomorrow. We only have right now. What have you learned today through pain, suffering, joy, love, loneliness, etc? Be grateful for the joy you are experiencing right now. Make a note of it. Give thanks for it. Pay it forward and give someone else a reason to find joy in the moment. C’mon America! Look at that unique person in the mirror and ask, “What, me worry?”