Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gratitude from the ashes of worry

Gratitude from the Ashes of Worry

The older I get, the more fragile I come to realize that life is; and the more gratitude I feel. Granted, I sometimes am grateful that no great disaster has befallen me or my loved ones that day. But I am also grateful for the smaller, almost invisible blessings. Like the fact that I saw a red ship floating in the harbour mist yesterday morning, or that my mother is still well enough to live in her own home, or that the winter clothes I put into storage last April have not been eaten by moths. I have an idea of what cultivates gratitude but I don't always pay attention to what devours gratitude. And many things devour it. Worry, for example. I have had a lifelong relationship with worry. I know its many faces and its many voices. It calls me from my sleep and sings a siren's tune. Worry has a huge appetite and the more you feed it, the more its appetite grows... or so it seems.

Case in point: one day last week, I had two things happen within a time space of an hour. In the first incident, one of my co-workers was unhappy with me and had corrected me. In the second incident, a different co-worker sang my praises. My immediate response was to sink into a worried, depressed state over the co-worker who was unhappy with me. Would this affect my reputation at work? Would I come across as someone incapable? I went up into my room at home and literally shut the lights and slumped into a chair. I tried to snap myself out of it. What did it matter if one, single person was unhappy with me one afternoon out of the year? I can never arrange the world in such a way that everyone is always going to always be happy with me! Never! In fact, I can never arrange the world, period. And what about that other co-worker; the one who sang my praises? Why has her compliment been relegated to the back recesses of my mind? Why am I sitting in a dark room in a chair?

When I was working in sculpture a number of years back, I created a worry chair. I asked people to write their worries onto the chair. Underneath it, I sewed a rug with an image of a woman and a window above her head; light streaming in from the window. (The artist part of me knows that it's better to open a window, rather than shut out the light.)

Sometimes, I question the little tidbits of activity I do around the home to bring in the “light”. I call it 'little art' because it is art-in-transition; art that is here today and likely gone in a few days or weeks. This week, I filled a cream pitcher with mountain ash berries and also stems from a white berry bush (that the nursery has mistakenly sold me as a gooseberry bush). I also found an antique postcard of a little girl reaching up to touch an angel (from Italy) and I framed it in an old frame I had sitting in my attic. For a few weeks, each night I drank warm milk with freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper, crushed star anise and cinnamon sticks. It tasted heavenly. I don't always have time to invest into making a piece of art. But I can always continue puttering with these small, seemingly insignificant pastimes. And as I work at this or that, I seem to also burn off the residue of worry from the day, making room for gratitude.


  1. As your daughter I certainly believe that the "little art" that was always present around the home contributed to my rich and happy childhood.

  2. That's so nice to know. And you've inherited that 'little art' tendency, I'd say!

  3. I love the little girl and the angel.
    And I smile as you describe your "lifelong relationship with worry" (I think I've seen you use that expression before) ..
    I also like: "I can never arrange the world, period".

  4. Thanks for the reminder of the value of "little art"! I like the idea of 'feeding' worry - or fear - or whatever emotion it is that keeps us shut up in the dark.