Our dog likes to chew bones; rawhide is OK but real bones are best: lamb shanks, beef bones, even a deer antler. She works on them diligently until she chews them up or sucks all the flavor out of them. In the latter case she occasionally revisits them maybe to check if any taste remains or perhaps just out of nostalgia.
One day we gave her a new bone; a beef bone seemingly not unlike others she had had. But something was different. At first she chewed it a bit but from then on she carried it around the house while softly whining as if in pain. She wouldn't chew it, couldn't bring herself to bury/hide it and couldn't decide what to do with it. It troubled her, became her burden to bear. It became her worry bone.
We all carry our own worry bones. Something that we often can't quite put our finger on that is the source of concern and anxiety, maybe just a touch of fear. It goes beyond the day to day worries about the kids, or your aging parents, the frustrations of work or relationships. It’s deeper and more personal; even existential. It’s that sense that something is not quite right in the world, or that you are not really the person that you thought you were, or that you don't belong. It is like a vague dull ache. Something is wrong but you aren't really sick, you don't know what to do about it and you can't shake it.
It’s baggage, it’s in your mind, it’s in your gut, you get tired of carrying it around yet can not find the way to let it go. Sometimes our dog tries to bury her worry bone. Do you try to do that with yours? Where do you bury it? Under some false bravado, hoping that a bit of swagger, some loud talk will obscure the anxiety and insecurity that is still in your gut? Perhaps you try to ignore it with lots of activity - working constantly, playing games or extreme physical activity. These things may help you forget the worry for a while but it always returns. Even when you think you are not carrying it, it still follows you as if tethered to your being.
Sooner or later each if us has to confront the worry, deal with it in our own imperfect and individual way. It’s like having a chronic disease that may not kill us but which diminishes our life if we don't tackle it. As the cliché reminds, us recognizing the problem is the first step.
But perhaps there is another side to the worry bone. The songwriter David Mallett suggested that "We are made of dreams and bones". So we need to turn those worries into dreams. When you think about it they are not so far apart. Fear and hope are two sides of the same coin. It’s just that worries can lead to paralysis while dreams can spur actions that take us to a better place.
So don't worry; just dream on.
One Small Voice
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