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.