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Pertler: Outworking worry

Jill Pertler

I worry. We all do. We all have things to fret about and fixate on. Real and legitimate things that could and may go wrong that will mess other things up big time.

And lately — oh, lately — doesn't it seem there are more major, huge and catastrophic issues to occupy our brain space? It seems that way because it is that way and that, in and of itself, is cause for worry.

So many volcanic eruptions. And hurricanes. And fires. And earthquakes. And shootings. And explosions. And politics. So many accusations. So much criticism. So many terrible things happening in our own country as well as places halfway across the world and we have to pay attention to both because we've only got one planet and people are people here, there and everywhere.

So many fingers pointing in so many directions but always away from the person doing the pointing. And the news broadcasts every bit of it 24/7.

Let's face it. The news can be depressing.

This isn't new. The news isn't about the mundane or ordinary. We wouldn't watch it if it was. It's supposed to highlight the lowlights (and the highlights, but the lowlights often warrant more attention). And lately, there's been no shortage of lowlights.

Each morning we wake up to a newsflash. In my little corner of the universe, it feels like there isn't much I can do to make a difference in all this. I can send donations and help to those who need it. I can contribute, but I can't alter the overall situation(s). I can't right the wrongs or change the world. It's a feeling of powerlessness. A person could get disheartened with the weight of it all.

I feel that way sometimes. I suppose most of us do — if we are being honest human beings.

But this morning, while the news played on the TV in the kitchen, I did what I do most mornings. Tidy the mess from the night before. I put a few dishes into the dishwasher. Cleaned out the sink. Cleared clutter from the kitchen table. Moved errant shoes to the shoe rack at the back door. I swept and mopped. In between tasks I sipped my coffee. My morning contained no shortage of the mundane.

And then right there, in the kitchen, in the midst of mopping, I realized my overall stress level had decreased a bit (despite the coffee). Clearing the clutter from the kitchen is about as boring as life can get, but in the midst of my ordinary routine I found a sense of comfort that comes from having the power to complete a worthwhile task (even if that task is as humdrum as wiping crumbs from the countertop).

It can feel like the world is falling apart around us. But still, the sun rises and sets each evening. The earth spins on her axis. We greet each day and move forward in whatever way we can, listening to the news, trying to make sense out of the senseless and turning off the TV when we can't stand it any longer. Doing what we can when we can even though it feels like we can't possibly be doing enough.

And sometimes, we confront our legitimate angst with the ho-hum of everyday, tedious tasks. Going through the motions is the best we can do because the alternative is giving up or collapsing completely and that doesn't do anyone any good.

And in the midst of the mundane Monday morning this angst may be lessened somewhat, even for just a moment or two, by a shift from the state of the world at large to the right here, right now. By focusing on something — anything — tangible and with the slightest inkling of purpose. By putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward — step by step.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

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