Worry is the new human condition. The economy, global warming, in-laws.
Even little things cause us to fret on a daily basis. Traffic, deadlines, Starbucks instant coffee.
Growing up, my sister had a tiny wooden box filled with miniature people. Their brightly colored clothes were fashioned from embroidery floss. She kept these worry dolls on her dresser, and I’d often open up the box to hold them.
My sister is an energy worker. Even back then, the worry dolls were infused with her energy. They fairly crackled with electricity when I held them in my hand.
Worry dolls are an old folk remedy for anxiety. Each night, you take your tiny people from the tiny box and lay them out. You tell each one a worry. There’s half a dozen of them. So if your life is a disaster, you may need to invest in the expansion pack. Or a therapist.
My sister’s worry dolls were very attentive listeners. A few times, I even dared to tell them my troubles. I wondered if their power was transferrable. And then I feared I’d bump one of her solutions out of the queue so I stopped talking to them.
The power of this floss and wire family lies in the confession. Humans have a desire to unload, to express themselves, to be heard. It helps us deal, helps us move on.
Most religions embrace some form of confessional or prayer ritual. Psychotherapy is based on the worry monologue. And who hasn’t enjoyed a teary heart-to-heart with her BFF?
Just like confessional booths and worry dolls, our journals provide a perfect avenue for voicing our troubles. Our journals are always there with time and space for us. Journals always listen and never talk back. (Except for that time I went without sleep for 72 hours…)
Like most of you, I’ve had some troubles lately. Nothing big, mostly irritants. The garbage truck plowed into my parked car on Thursday. Then someone stole my credit card to purchase STD tests on eBay. But even these small inconveniences create tension.
Sometimes I find it easier to deal with big whoppers, like death and unemployment, than the little stuff, like parking. Giant problems propel us into Crisis Mode and new resources open up.
I’m very good at dealing with large-level catastrophe. (A few years ago I was voted “Person You’d Most Want Present at the Apocolypse.”) But the daily stuff, not so much.
So lately I’ve been turning to my journal, much like my sister’s worry dolls. In confessional mode, one at a time, I list my worries. No introduction, no context, no solution. Just a bulleted list of my current troubles.
It’s quite possible that the Universe rises to the occasion and decides to solve a few of these. (The garbage company is cutting me a large check that I can use for something more inspiring than repairing my 30-year-old VW Golf.)
Or perhaps the relief I experience from this process is simply the power of the confessional at work.
Either way, I’ll take it.
Do you have worries? If not, check your pulse. The rest of us could benefit from trying this exercise at the end of each day. No solutions, explanations or rationalizations. Just get out that notebook and list away.
Tiny dolls optional.