It seems to me that each year there is a particular middah (character quality) that G-d is challenging me to work on. I’ve dealt with loshon hara (negative speech), giving charity with joy, and a wide variety of other qualities over the years. This year seems to be the year of worry.
I never before realized how closely related worry and fear are. In fact, worry is the outcome of fear. Fear clouds our perception of reality, but worry causes real, negative effects on our self – all aspects of our self: physical, emotional and spiritual. I’ve learned that if I don’t want those negative effects in my life, I’ve got to learn to stop worrying. Immediately.
So, I started telling myself to stop worrying about anything over which I have no control.
You see, there are only two ways to deal with worry.
If it is something I can control/change, then instead of getting mired in the mud of worry and allowing it to paralyze me, I stop and make a list of the things that I can do in this situation to change it. I use the worry as a catalyst for action.
But if I find myself in a situation where I really have no control and cannot change it, then worry serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Allowing myself to worry can only accomplish one thing in such a situation – it will give birth to those negative effects I mentioned above. So I am learning not to worry.
When a situation occurs and you start to worry, ask yourself the question – is this something I have control over? Is there something I can do to change the situation? If the answer is yes, then make a list of what the situation is currently, how you want it resolved, and what is needed to get there. Only then can you begin to brainstorm about how to make it happen.
But if you ask yourself if you can do anything to change the situation and the answer is, “no” or “not anything else”, then you have to stop and trust that the Creator of the Universe is in charge, and knows what you are facing. You have to let go of it and not allow the worry to paralyze you. Especially since paralysis is invasive. It doesn’t just affect the area about which the worry was initiated, it also paralyzes you in every area of your life, draining you of your energy and rendering you completely ineffective. Don’t. go. there.
I have just finished a three and a half week speaking tour in the US. Thank G-d, I spoke to a lot of people and made a lot of really amazing contacts for the future. So last night, after I finished my last talk of this tour, I got online to check-in for my flight home. When I put in my information, the website told me that the airline was unable to verify my ticket and I needed to contact a reservation specialist.
So, I called Delta. I was informed by the very friendly woman on the other end of the phone that my ticket had been cancelled because the credit card used to purchase the ticket had an unauthorized use. The only way I could fly home tomorrow was to pay for the ticket myself using a credit card in my name (which I couldn’t do because I don’t have that much available) or to get the person who purchased the ticket for me to contact American Express and straighten out the situation. My flight had been purchased by the Rabbi in the US who had brought me out to do some private counselling. He was in Israel. For a Simcha. Fortunately, he was still using his US phone number.
So, I called the Rabbi. No answer. 5 minutes later I called him again. I emailed him and I texted him and I called him about 10 times. And I began to feel that telltale feeling in the pit of my stomach that only comes from worry. It was 1:00 am in NY. I was falling on my face with exhaustion, and I was worried. I stopped and asked myself if there was anything else I could do. And the answer at 1:00am was, “no”. So I decided not to worry and I went to sleep.
At 2:30am I got a call. The Rabbi had taken care of the situation. It turned out that the airline had accidently put in one incorrect digit for the credit card and for some unknown reason it went through on someone else’s credit card. When the person saw the charge, they filed a claim and my ticket was canceled.
Now everything was taken care of. Well, almost. All the good seats are gone and I have no kosher meal for the flight, but I have a seat on the flight home. The kosher food I can control – I will go shopping for stuff to eat on the flight today. The seat I can’t control. So I won’t worry about it, because I can’t change it and I don’t need a stomach ache or a headache because of it. I will work, listen to a class that I have downloaded to my computer, or sleep. All of which will benefit me. Worry won’t.
So don’t worry. Either change the situation or accept the situation, but don’t worry.