(Written at the end of this past summer).
Tomorrow is the day after Labor Day.
We all know what that means.
It’s been looming large on our calendars for the last two months. Advertisements and flyer promotions have been announcing it for the last three weeks. “Back to School Signs” are all over the place, signaling the first day of school.
This day represents the end of long and lazy summer days, the end of time being our own and the beginning of a tight and rigid schedule to last throughout the next ten months.
I know that my children will not sleep much tonight. As early as I send them off to bed to try to get in a good night’s rest for the Big Day tomorrow, I know that they will remain awake, tossing and turning until finally a fitful sleep will mercifully overtake them. Their minds will be racing in nervous anticipation, just as mine did years ago before my own first day of the new school year. Those terrible tight knots in the pit of their stomachs are quite familiar to me.
Sure, excitement is part of their feelings. But mostly, they are feeling worried. Worried about how things will develop.
Will they have nice teachers? Will they be given too much homework? Will the social setting in their group change? Will their friends still be friendly after two months of being apart? Will the material from the new grade be difficult to learn? What extra-curricular activities will they be a part of? What can they do to make this year a better one?
These and a host of other questions will worry my children tonight, as they lie open-eyed in bed, worry robbing them of their much-needed sleep.
So, as my children are lying awake and worrying, I am thinking about worry.
I am thinking that it is very likely the worst possible emotion.
The only emotion even remotely as taxing is hopelessness. But while hopelessness is stressful, I think most of us can deal with it. When we realize that we are powerless to effect a situation, we surrender and submit to the fact that this is how it must be. And we adapt ourselves to our circumstances as best as we are able.
The problem arises however, when we have a gnawing doubt that maybe we can do something to alter the situation. That doubt can ravage us within, as our mind is in a quandary trying to determine our possible options. My children may be wondering and worrying what they can do to make a good impression on their teachers on the first day of school. Just notice, how carefully they select their blouses, socks and even the ribbons for their hair. Or how they choose their pencil cases and notebooks to impress their friends, lest their social status decrease without these efforts.
Speak to your family or close friends. Let them unload and reveal their hidden skeletons. Ask them what troubles them most. Invariably, at least half the time it will be worrying over something that might happen.
Most of us can cope with our issues – even extremely difficult ones. But few of us can deal with the worry of the vast unknown. The “what might happen if…” creates turmoil within. And even when we are genuinely facing a difficult tribulation, what sends us over the abyss is often worrying about the challenge getting worse. What if the pain gets more severe? What if the stress becomes more intense?
So, your grandmother may be able to cope with the arthritic pain in her joints now. But she can’t handle the worry of what might happen ten years down the road when the pain intensifies as she ages.
Your cousin might be managing on his rainy day savings now that he has suddenly been laid off from his job, but he worries about what will happen when that runs dry.
Or your friend who is overweight worries about gaining extra pounds and becoming prone to heart disease or diabetics.
And, of course, your children can usually cope with the demands of their teachers and school friends once the school year begins, but now they are overwhelmed with worry about the unknown.
In truth, worry is at least half of the problem. Removing worry from our emotional dictionaries would be curing at least half of our psychological and physical maladies.
Perhaps that is why thinking positively so central to Judaism. Positive thinking creates positivity – first by removing half of the troubling issue – which is our worry, and next by fostering in us a comforting belief of a greater Being, further opening the spiritual channels for recovery.
Thinking positively removes the negative energy and creates a positive one, thereby ensuring positive outcomes. A nurturing belief or reliance on G-d changes you into a healthier individual, who is now ready for the positive influx.
So, the next time you worry about your job, your health, your relationships, your finances, your aging parents or your children’s first day of school, why not stop to reflect: how can I infuse my circumstances with positive energy and positive thinking to create a more positive outcome?
And, as for the chronic worriers, like myself, here’s a new worry: will I ever stop worrying?
Chana Weisberg is the author of four books, the latest, Divine Whispers, soon to be released by Targum/Feldheim. She is the dean of the Institute of Jewish Studies in Toronto and is a scholar in residence for www.askmoses.com. She is also a columnist for www.chabad.org‘s Weekly Magazine. Chana Weisberg lectures regularly on issues relating to women, relationships and mysticism and welcomes your comments or inquiries at: firstname.lastname@example.org