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.