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I have been reading a wonderful book, Married To Laughter – A Love Story Featuring Anne Meara, by Jerry Stiller. Jerry Stiller is Ben Stiller’s dad who has been in show business for over 60 years. You might know him as George Constanza’s dad on Seinfeld or the father on King of Queens. There is a section in the book where Jerry talks about his father who lived to be 102 years old. Whenever Jerry asked him what would keep him going, William Stiller would always have the same reply – “I never worry”. This was one of many great moments of conscience that is in the book and clearly made me reflect on some things. What do I worry about? How much do I worry? Does my worry block my ability to do?
I used to hate the song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” My retort was “You better worry.” It took me quite a while to really understand what the song was truly saying. It’s not an effacing anthem, but a liberating one. Once I was able, with the assistance of Henry (my life coach), to understand the pitfall of worrying, I could embrace the song and its meaning with greater understanding.
For the most part, I work on not worrying and I remember as a child I hardly worried about anything. I always had tremendous faith that things would work out. I embraced the magic. Magic has been with me for 57 years at least and continues to be one of the greatest assets of my life. The past few years, with the cries of recession, foreclosures, retrenchment and high unemployment, has wreaked havoc on the spirits of the American psyche. We’ve become fragile in our courage, less reliant on conscience, and more stuck in our minds. I fall into this derisive trap myself.
“Worry is thoughts and images of a negative nature in which mental attempts are made to avoid anticipated potential threats." As an emotion it is experienced as anxiety or concern about a real or imagined issue, usually personal issues such as health or finances or broader ones such as environmental pollution and social or technological change. Most people experience short-lived periods of worry in their lives without incident; indeed, a moderate amount of worrying may even have positive effects, if it prompts people to take precautions (e.g., fastening their seat belt or buying fire insurance) or avoid risky behaviors (e.g., promiscuous sexual relations or cliff diving). Excessive worry is the main component of Generalized anxiety disorder. – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
I know when I worry, I freeze up. Nothing can get done. I am not available to others (especially my wife) and my life seems to suddenly come to a screeching halt. To halt something is to block the exchange with yourself and others.
So what does one do when faced with real time issues of money, work-related matters, etc? Listen to conscience. Follow your heart and stay open for new direction and purpose. Learning to listen to conscience requires clearing away historical toxins that pollute our minds and render us helpless and afraid. Is it that simple? Yes it is, but simple is one of the hardest things for me to do. The word simple itself is the most complex word I know. Langston Hughes (a great American writer) had a character he wrote about named "Simple," who always asked simple questions that led to complex thoughts. Ever hear someone say keep it “simple” how hard is that for each of us to do? I know whenever I don’t keep it simple, that my world gets all discombobulated, and I develop a severe case of tight ass. So to me, “Simple” is a complex step to freedom. Worrying does not suit me or assist others around me. I have to continually fight to develop my chops when it comes to developing a greater ability to listen and follow the conscience.
Throughout the book Married to Laughter, Jerry continues to tell inspirational stories about conscience. He tells the story of the time that his dad, during the depression, spent 25 cents, for him and Jerry to go to a Vaudeville show. When Jerry’s mom heard about it she was livid. How can you spend 25 cents on vaudeville and we need milk and bread. Jerry’s dad just looked at her and at Jerry and smiled. Jerry credits those trips to vaudeville shows with his dad for assisting him to develop a driving passion for theater, acting and show business. He also told the story of getting 25 cents from his uncle Charlie and going out to buy gum and candy. When his mom found out, she grabbed him and took him back to the candy store, and asked the store owner, “how could you sell a kid twenty-five pieces of gum?” She turned to me. “Give it back”. The store owner was incredulous. “What do you want from me”? “ I want my quarter back”. She said to him. He gave Jerry’s mom back the quarter and Jerry’s mom turned to him and said “Don’t ever do that again”. Jerry went on to say that his uncle Charlie continued to slip him money, and he learned to hide his treats from his mom.
Jerry’s mom (Bella) was a worrier who died of cancer at a much younger age than his dad. You might say, well someone had to worry about the rent, paying for bread, milk. Yes and no. Jerry’s dad seemed to always find a way; it just wasn’t the way his mom wanted him to find it. What if Jerry’s dad’s major responsibility in life was to take him to Vaudeville shows, make him laugh and demonstrate to him how not to worry? What if he hadn’t done that? Would Jerry Stiller have found the passion and drive to be an actor? Jerry credits his dad’s early adventures with him as being a driving force to that led to him being an actor.
Worry limits our opportunities, blocks our listening and in many cases assists the onset of illness. Not worrying doesn’t abdicate responsibility and accountability. On the contrary, it reinforces it. I know I have a responsibility to listen and follow, and when I do that I move more into my own leadership and demonstration.
Believe me, I have a lot I could be worrying about right now. How am I going to pay this bill, manage my life economically and enjoy some of the things I want to do in life? What I have chosen to do is live and embrace each day constantly looking for new opportunities to thrive and be happy. Are there still challenges, hell yes, but to worry about them does not eradicate those issues, and continues to restrict solutions.
What I continue to learn is that there is tremendous value in a simple song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”…
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