How do optimists remain optimistic? In times laced with so much that is worrisome, how do we keep our days bright and full of promise? Emilie Loring’s second book, The Mother in the Home, is a compendium of wisdom for young mothers, and this piece seems especially useful–not just for mothers but for anyone.
The Extravagance of Worry
“Mending? Now, Jane, ” I exclaimed, as I entered my sister’s living-room at the hour she reserves for friends, tea and leisure, “What has happened to the SYSTEM?”
As a family we are tremendously proud of the efficiency achievements of Jane, our youngest and bonniest member, but, as is the way of families, we consider a little wholesome discipline good for her and indulge in an occasional affectionate gibe at her methods.
Jane flushed as she laughingly replied, “Oh, I was extravagant this morning and now I am paying the bill. I wasted three good hours and my creditors are clamoring.” She pointed to the heaped-up basket before her. She selected the most riddled garment of the lot, perhaps as a matter of penance and continued:
“When I awoke this morning, Jo, the lid was off my box of worries–usually I sit tight on the cover–and out trooped the malicious imps on mischief bent. They buzzed about me like a swarm of bees–took control of my thoughts–lashed my imagination up hill and down dale and robbed me of my power of concentration. In fact, my mind rattled like a worried window-curtain in a breeze.”
“Poor girl! What was the biggest worry?” I sympathized.
“Money. As you know the last two years have been hard ones for Peter. It is with us as it was in the days of Joseph in the land of Egypt, the lean kine are rapidly devouring the fat kine. This morning, the worries prodding me, in imagination I mortgaged this house, saw it sold to cover the mortgage, had Peter break down from overwork, and was just deciding that I would name the tea-house, which dire necessity obliged me to start, the Blue Dragon or the Copper Flagon, when my attention was diverted by a peculiar sensation in my right side. Go on, laugh if you want to, Jo; a woman deserves ridicule when she allows her mind to run riot as I did mine.”
I was struggling with mirth, but all this was so unlike our pretty Jane that I felt a bit anxious as well. Was the lid loosening on my box of worries?
“Go on, Janey!” I prompted.
“Of course my first thought was appendicitis–any simpler explanation never occurred to me–my second, what an expense the operation would be. In imagination, with Spartan fortitude I bade a lingering farewell to my family, composed letters to each member of it to be delivered in case–well, you know. I was in the midst of the mental composition of one to my big boy when suddenly the thought flashed that this was the day of his last and most important game of football. In an instant I had a vision of my precious six feet two of flesh, brawn and muscle a bedraggled heap being carefully removed from the field of glory.”
“‘From too much evil, evil dies!’ This last picture broke the spell. I dropped my work and fled to the great world of out-of-doors.”
“Did that help?” I inquired solicitously.
“Indeed it did. The sun was sparkling on the river; a tiny frost-laden breeze brought a tingle to my blood and as I tramped I planned the refurnishing of this house. Neither a very spiritual nor intellectual thought-refuge but one full of light and color and hope. It required concentration also, and every time one of those malicious worry imps poked his head into my mind I gave him a sharp slap and changed the color scheme of a room.
“By the time I reached home again I had the house done over from cellar to attic–had built steps from the south veranda down into the most fascinating formal garden. As I pictured a fountain sending its diamond spray high in the air and even caught the glimmer of gold fish in its basin, the last little worry skulked shamefacedly back into his box. In a twinkling I had the lid on, fastened it tight with the screw of determination and here I am back on the cover.” She gave a little bounce as though to emphasize her ascendancy.
“But you still have the problems?” I ventured.
“Of course I have,” she replied stoutly. “The real ones. But I don’t have to break my neck and heart running to meet them, do I? What human being reaches middle age without problems? Isn’t control of mind counted among the major qualifications of the home-maker? I cannot afford to worry. I need every ounce of strength, thought and courage I possess to solve my problems. Worrying is a luxury which should be indulged in only by the idle rich; the rest of us have no time for it.
“As an illustration of the waste of my morning hear what happened on my return. Peter telephoned eager to report the consummation of a business deal, a good fortune for which we have been hoping and praying. Then, as though to make me more ashamed of my weak-minded worry the ‘phone rang again. this time it was Junior who rang up to tell me that his game had been called off for this afternoon. He had a feeling, he said, that I might have him on my mind a bit.”
“Jane, you skipped! How about the hospital and appendicitis?” I quizzed. “Any later developments?”
Jane’s face grew a bright and lively crimson.
“To my shame I confess it, Jo, that sensation was an attack of nerves, pure and simple. I haven’t thought of it from that time to this. Just think of the hours I wasted. I accomplished nothing and I am still feeling the effect of the nervous strain. Oh, I indulged with royal prodigality while I was about it,” she concluded with a laugh at her own expense.
As I walked home I thought of Jane, of her courage and her problems. Then I remembered the reply a very old woman had made when asked how she had managed to remain so hale and hearty in spite of the vicissitudes the years had brought her:
Happy landings, everyone!