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From Whence Anxiety Cometh?

November 27, 2008

Worry-warts! I know some of them. I have been one of them. I may still be one of them on occasion.
My grandmother used to say, “I can’t do anything for you except worry.”
She may have meant that as a pseudonym for “pray,” (and she may have prayed too) but for the most part, worry is what she meant and what she did.
My grandpa used to say, “Don’t worry about tomorrow … let tomorrow take care of itself.” That’s kinda’ scriptural, though he never cited the reference. My grandpa never seemed to have one iota of worry or anxiety in his bones. It used to “confound” my granny because he could sit peacefully on the porch in his rocker, puffing on his pipe and never “worry” a bit about their circumstances or anything else.
I’ve found in my life that Grandpa had it right. Worrying doesn’t solve any problems. Quite frankly, worrying is a waste of time, especially if it is absent of prayer. But then again, if one really believes in the power of prayer … why worry?
My granny (whom I loved dearly) always wanted to be able to “leave something” to her family when she died. ‘Til the day she died, (or slipped into a coma), she worried about leaving bills and things “un-done” and not being able to leave money or treasures. Bless her heart! What I treasure about my granny could not even be contained within an inanimate object or money. But she didn’t get that. She thought something tangible was what we would want and need. I have the intangible treasures of her memory. Unfortunately, I think she also left us her “gift of worry” or the anxiety of feeling insecure about “everything.”
I address this now because I do recognize a pattern in our family. Maybe it is more about “insecurity” than “anxiety or worry.” In any event, it is a thorn in the flesh that wreaks havoc on one’s psyche and the dysfunction of much of our family to this day.
I think I can pinpoint from whence such anxiety and insecurity came upon us. My granny’s mother died when Granny was only 7-weeks old. Her father, a drunkard and ne’er-do-well, gave my Granny to a foster family named Alderman. The Aldermans were rich, but quite old. They were strict to the point of being abusive. My granny was also sexually abused in this home. She was constantly reminded of her “ne’er-do-well” roots and threatened with her “drunkened” father coming to take her away. She longed for her real mother for ALL her life. She longed for “real family” for all her life. There were certain hidden secrets about her “other” family that seemed to always plague the relationship she had with her foster mother.
When she was 15-years old, she eloped with the singing school teacher at their church. He was eighteen years older than her (32) … and had been married twice before. (Now that would be illegal in most states or counties these days.) He brought her back to Tennessee where she found that he had no home of his own, not much of a job and certainly no money in 1932. She quickly became pregnant and that baby died at three days old. Then she had seven more children. My grandpa continuously moved them from pillar to post trying to farm or whatever he could to feed the family. They lived in run-down shacks, share-cropper houses and with saw-mill camps from Tennessee and back to Florida on occasion. Home and the security of home was an elusive dream to her. So of course, she worried … at least it was something.
This insecurity that she clung to has certainly been passed down through her family. I remember when I was only about five-years old … she constantly “worried” about our house burning down. She worried and so I worried too. When my parents divorced, she was constantly worried about my daddy taking us away from her. She worried, and so I did too.
When I was about ten or eleven, she took up talking about “the end of times.” She worried about the “mark of the beast” and how we’d all survive the “tribulation.” So I worried about that too.
She used to say, “I just hope I get to live long enough to see you married and happy.” I got married and then moved to Germany six months later. She worried that I’d never come back and she’d never see me again. So I worried about that too.
As a child, I was mostly afraid of EVERYTHING. So was she. I was afraid to “be alone” and so I worked hard to always have some kind of social network. My mother, on the other hand, constantly wanted to just be “alone.” She spent the majority of my life in her bed “alone” — and so on weekends, I’d pack my knapsack and head for my Granny’s house — so I would not feel so alone. While Granny’s was a haven or place of respite from my otherwise dysfunctional home with my mother, the influence of her own anxiety consistently poured into my impressionable mind.
Anxiety comes about for all sorts of reasons and circumstances in life. Relationships, or the lack thereof … financial woes … illness … trying to juggle life as a single parent … the list could be endless, and with most all of these examples being quite prevalent in my life, the anxiety was overwhelming. There is almost this ideal that [when life is happening] if you do not worry about it, then you are being lazy, or naïve or careless or irresponsible — like Grandpa.
Ahhhh! Therein lies the rub. Grandpa’s philosophy was to “let each day take care of itself,” and maybe since he was so much older than everybody else in the family, he was wise enough to recognize the futility of sitting around working yourself into a tizzy to no avail.
To tell you the truth … I envy Grandpa. He had an old rocker that he’d move about “the place” finding shade under a tree, or finding warmth in the sun on the end of the porch. He would sit and smoke his pipe … and sometimes, you’d see him talking to someone (who was never there). We thought he was talking to himself, but I can’t help but wonder now if he was “talking to the Lord” — instead of worrying.
He certainly was not an anxious person. He was never afraid of ANYTHING! The only ANXIOUS thing I ever witnessed from him was when he sat straight up in his bed in the middle of the night and yelled out, “EARTHQUAKE!” Sure enough, we were experiencing the tremors from a rare earthquake here in the hills of Tennessee. But then he lay back down and went to sleep.
Off and on throughout my life, I’ve had bouts with both my Granny’s Anxiety and my Grandpa’s Shade Tree Prayer-life. While I more appreciate the latter, I’ve been more prone to Granny’s style. What I never intended to do was pass such on to my children. All three have dealt with anxiety to some degree and it’s just heartbreaking to see it take such a toll on the heart and mind of a child.
I want to “nip it” as Barney Fife would say. I don’t believe it to be from the Lord at all. In fact, I think it’s a tool of Satan to rob us of our joy and the abundant life. I think that understanding from whence anxiety cometh is the first step in dealing with it. And then, replacing anxiety with a fervent commitment to prayer and study of God’s Word is second. (Of course, if the second had been the first, then perhaps there’d be no second)
What I’ve found in practical application is that the Word of God is so much a “salve” or “ointment” — a healing poultice for whatever ails you. It’s been proven over and over in my life. And once this “balm” is applied, it’s much easier to “think clearly and critically” about the things that cause anxiety!

So, Hakuna Matata! (means, “no worries here,” in Swahili)

One Comment leave one →
  1. Mary permalink
    December 4, 2008 4:09 pm

    Carole, what a pleasant surprise! I read your message in Randy’s prayer requests and clicked on to this site. Are you and Jack back? I’d love to see ya’ll and visit a “spell”. This site is great! What a blessing! Thanks for sharing your heart and touching ours. I’ll be back. Love ya, Mary

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