Thoughts on Worry and Purpose

As 2013 was winding down, I found myself more and more contemplating the state of worry I seem to usually find myself in. If I strung together all the minutes I spent worrying, how many days have I lost? I suspect the answer is in weeks, if not months. And what has this time spent on worry done for me? Yes, I realize the answer.

I don’t know exactly why I’m such a worrier, but I’ve been one for as long as I can remember. Years ago, a good friend recommended the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff. He recognized the amount of energy I was wasting getting caught up in stressing over things that either didn’t matter or might never happen.

In just the past few weeks, I’ve begun repeating a mantra to myself to counter all the worry: You have a place to live. You have food to eat. You have family to love. Everything is OK. I’m finding that repeating these things to myself helps calm me during those times when I feel my belly begin to burn and my heart begin to pound. Remembering that I’m secure in the things that truly matter helps me let go of the rest. Every little thing really will be alright. Continue reading “Thoughts on Worry and Purpose”

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These Are The Days

Photo by Lee Cannon via Flickr

Now that the kids are back at school, this mama is getting back into the writing groove. I spent some time on Monday laying out a schedule for myself that should hopefully take me through the winter holidays. It has me busy from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Of course, all of that isn’t writing time. My “day job” of caring for and supporting my family comes first. So, there’s time scheduled for getting kids off to school, assisting them with homework, dealing with after school activities, cooking dinner, and getting the kids to bed, not to mention a few hours tucked in to address the mess that is the house we live in. And, oh yeah, writing time, too. And time for all the stuff that goes along with writing, like trying to get finished pieces published and looking for paying gigs here and there.

I sent my schedule to my husband, who I must say has always been supportive of everything I do. I thought maybe if he saw on paper how jam packed my days are, he would better understand why I’m always so desperate to lock myself away whenever I can to write. I do think he gets that, but I also don’t think he’ll be riding in on a white horse to rescue me from my slavish schedule any time soon. His days are too full already.

And so I continue to pursue that elusive thing we call balance, that life where I theoretically have time for everything that’s important to me. And the important things do tend to get done, usually at the expense of the mess that is the house we live in. The schedule helps remind me that my writing is one of those important things, that it’s important enough to be scheduled. I try not to book anything else in it’s slot that’s not life-or-death important. The tables remain dusty and the backyard becomes a jungle for the dog to play in. She doesn’t seem to mind.

Book a Week: Devotion, by Dani Shapiro

This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for quite a long time. I loved Shapiro’s first memoir, Slow Motion, and I also love her blog, Moments of Being.

Devotion chronicles a spiritual journey, but not the kind I was expecting. There’s nothing artificial about her exploration of the Judaism she grew up with or the other disciplines she turns to–including buddhism, yoga, and even psychology. This is not immersion journalism. This is one woman’s personal search for real meaning in her life, and the very personal nature of her search is ultimately what makes the book universal.

Shapiro grew up with a father who was an Orthodox Jew and a mother who described herself as an atheist. Imagine the household. In utter confusion, Shapiro turned away from religion as an adult. But then she was left feeling unmoored. How many of us feel the same way?

I love how she describes herself as being complicated with Judaism. She rarely attended services and certainly didn’t practice the elaborate prayer rituals at home that her father had during her childhood. Yet she still described herself as Jewish. Her ancestors were Jewish. She commemorated the Jewish holidays. Though I no longer describe myself as Catholic, I understand what she means by “complicated” with it. I still put up a Christmas tree and color Easter eggs with my kids. There’s an aspect of religion that is family tradition, and this is the aspect I’ve kept alive for my own children. It would be impossible for me to ever completely abandon the Catholicism I was raised with.

But like Shapiro, I’ve been searching beyond the faith of my childhood for something that makes sense in my adult life. I’m not able to simply accept the religion of my youth without question, yet I’m also not fulfilled without a sense of deeper meaning in my life besides the endless pursuit of possessions and bragging rights. Devotion inspires me to find my own center, to keep working toward true balance in my life, and to consider that a u-turn on my current road may be required.

As a writer, I’m stimulated by Shapiro’s precise narrative, so structured yet always in touch with the core of emotion in every situation. I would describe the format of this book as a series of essays, most of which are fairly brief. At times it even seemed more like one long prose poem in 102 stanzas. It’s the kind of book I’d love to one day have the skill to write myself.

Now I’m anxious to read her novels. Dani Shapiro is becoming one my favorite authors.