Worry Is Belief

October 28, 2015

When I can’t clear my head or something heavy weighs on my heart, I try to go out for a walk around town. I steadily pick up the pace while singing to an upbeat 80s soundtrack, and find it helps to flush out what’s clogging my mental and spiritual pipes. I return home a calmer, more peaceful person for the exercise.

Yesterday was one of those days that called for a walk. But I rushed out the door without my headphones, an oversight I realized once I was already too far from home to turn back. I had to come up with another way to pass the time, so I began sorting everything on my mind into folders.

I made files and sub-files, and filled them until they were teeming with what I need to take care of and what I wish I’d done differently and what I fear I may never accomplish and the fact that the world seems to be nearing its end and questions about whether I eat sufficient greens and drink too much coffee and if I remembered to put the whites from the washer into the dryer before I left the house. Then it dawned on me, as I grouped them into broader categories, that there was really only one: Things I Worry About.

There’s no point in itemizing them all here, lest you think I’m a frantic worrywart. But tell me, please, which worries I should drop from the list. The big ones, or the little ones that add up to far more than the sum of their parts? The ones about health or peace of mind? Concern for my son in yeshiva in Israel or for my other boys, stateside? Fret about my immediate family or the trials and tribulations of our people?

Sheesh, the list goes on and on.

To worry, one might say, is to lack faith, and there are grounds for that argument. Yet I don’t debate G-d’s master plan, whose wisdom exceeds my capacity for understanding. Nor do I doubt His thinking, though sometimes, when this mere mortal cannot wrap her head around some of the craziness going on out there, I respectfully request a little insight, though I wonder what stops me from pounding my fist and demanding a full explanation.

It is precisely because of my faith that I worry. Tradition teaches us that our human purpose is to partner with the Divine in Tikkun Olam, in making our broken world whole. Looking around, how could we not notice how fractured our world is? And yet, contrary to the cutesy home décor signs at Marshall’s, worrying isn’t necessarily a waste of time. It can be a motivational kick in the rump, getting us off the spiritual couch and empowering us to take what’s in pieces and puzzle it back together.

At least we – worriers and non-worriers alike – can try, chipping in something to the effort. A few words of prayer. A small act of loving kindness. A handful of coins for charity. Exhibiting patience where we usually lack it, like biting our lip when a relative insults what we’re wearing.

None of it is a guarantee that we’ll swing the pendulum away from what we fear or what pains us, nor will it assure us global or inner peace. I know, too, that it will not make my worries disappear, nor obviate the need for my frequent walks. It will, however, bring positive energy into our lives and into our world.

And that can’t hurt.