Nothin’s Gonna Be All Right.

Reflections on A bad habit by L. E. Taylor, author of Elgan and Grace

“Worrying is a sin.”

Where I first heard that, I don’t remember. But I think it was a credible source, probably Scriptural. Obsessive stewing as a natural reaction to stress suggests a lack of faith. That we can control what we dread just by thinking hard about them is mildly blasphemous.

That’s God’s job.

The televangelist Joyce Meyer says, ‘You have a job description, and God has a job description. When we get those two mixed up, that’s where we always get into trouble.’

But for many of us who actually care about things, worrying is a habit. Maybe even a hobby. I heard a neologism, “disasterize,” applied to the habit some people, awash in a perpetual state of anxiety, have of stewing about imaginary problems. Often these are leaders, managers of all stripes, first-born in a family, and others who reflexively shoulder responsibilities as part of their worldview.

My Dad (Elgan, of Elgan and Grace) advised me in my early years as a self-employed commercial artist, always fretful about money or business decisions or a snowstorm of what-ifs, “Ninety-eight percent of the things we worry about never happen.”

My Mom (Grace of… well, you know, etc.) had a favorite on the same subject: “Don’t worry, nothing’s gonna be all right.” For a long time I took that to be a cynical witticism from her early years of disappointment and loss. Later, as an adult, after years of observing Grace’s indomitable optimism as a defining life force, I discovered a better translation.

As her name implies, Grace placed her emphasis on the term all right, meaning “perfect,” not the word nothing, denoting hopelessness.

In retrospect, it seems I got a lot of advice about worrying. Must have been the pained look on my angelic puss. The term “worry wart” got plenty of play in the reality-based world of Grace Ludwig Taylor. I didn’t think I was worrying, though; just chewing through obstacles, mysteries, and terrors.

Heck, I was just thinking.

Creative people are introspective.  We think; take things apart in our minds and try to put them back together without forgetting what we set out to accomplish. Graphic artists do this visually, drawing and revising, either on paper (in the olden days) or digitally on the computer screen. Mathematicians make notes on white boards (blackboards with chalk in ancient times, right after the glacier retreated), but these reflect theoretical calisthenics, first performed mentally.

Kind of like worrying a problem through to its conclusion.

But the scientist is searching for an ultimate truth: perfection. That’s the mathematician’s job. The chemist’s job. The physician’s job.

For a writer or a poet – or a parent! – perfection is an impossible dream. Best to aim a bit lower. Like excellence. This embraces humility as part of the process.  And, because excellence is a subjective word, it leaves room, always, for improvement.

In the final analysis, the best you can do is to do your best, and trust your Creator to handle the details. That is all that’s worth worrying about.

But it’s still enough to keep you awake nights.

Onward.

 

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Toy Soldiers, Innocence, and Trust.

Reflections in a jaded eye, by L. E. Taylor

The little fellow had been frail with ear infections for each of the four winters of his life. He needed to be content playing alone in the warmth of his bedroom on the rugs that covered his linoleum floor or in the small living room.

Each trip Mama made to the grocery a block away usually included a stop at the “dime store.” Back home in the warm kitchen, emptying paper sacks of bottled milk, Kellogg’s Flakes, Del Monte canned goods, and small packages string-wrapped with pink butcher paper, her attention would drift down to her son, watching patiently from a yellow enameled wooden chair.

“Did you bring me anything?” he would ask.

She always had. A small red-painted racing car with wheels that spun. A tiny Ford truck. A cowboy with white furry chaps on horseback, swinging a copper wire lariat. A funny book. Or, best surprise of all, a toy lead soldier, marching, aiming, crouching. These trinkets were not large by later, post-war, standards; but they were just right for her little son, the only child so far in all the family; sickly, sunny by nature, and utterly puzzling to his young mother.

In a short time, the boy had acquired a variegated collection of such toys. He kept them loose in a four quart peach basket made of thin sheets of pale wood with a single wooden strap handle, the kind used in those days by farmers and produce markets for tomatoes and apples and of course peaches. Intermittently, each day he would take out his basket of “soldiers” and create make-believe. There had been no wars; he’d seen no movies. Television wasn’t even a word. He didn’t know it, but he was manipulating the tiny men and vehicles to make up stories.

Presently, in that city where springtime is cold, Mama would bundle him up with ear muffs and galoshes and mittens, and send him out to play in the rare sunlight. He’d take his basket of soldiers, hunker down on the porch or the sidewalk, and the new story would begin.

Before long, his solitary activity attracted attention. First, one boy from nowhere stopped by to help him play. The truck noises were fun for boys to imitate. He would divide up the miniature players and their vehicles, cannons, and horses, and the two boys would improvise the action.

In no time, there were other boys. Three or four, all older. And bigger. When Mama would come to the door and say, “Time to come in,” they would put the soldiers and cars and trucks back into the basket, and the little boy would scamper up the steps and inside.

By summer, the boy realized that he had fewer soldiers. Where is the Ford truck? The horse was missing its rider.

Mama explained to him about people. He did not understand. Later when he’d go outside to play, he told the boys they couldn’t play with his soldiers any more

They called him selfish.

Onward.

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L. E. Taylor

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