Column: Do you make yourself crazy?

by Father Mark Goldasich

Did you know that your fingernails can indicate if you’re suffering from a serious disease?

Have you made sure that your computer is protected from the insidious Conflicker worm?

Are you wearing the new must-have jeans for spring?

Have you heard that scientists are fearful of a “nightmare event,” a massive solar storm that could knock out power worldwide and disrupt vital services?

These are just some of the items that bombarded me as I signed on to my computer to write this article. If you thought that you could get online to escape any personal or close-to-home anxieties you might be experiencing, you are mistaken.

Thank God for the Easter season! How often our lives mirror those of the disciples that we heard about in last Sunday’s Gospel, hiding behind locked doors because of fear. The risen Jesus appears to them and brings a welcome Easter gift: his peace. And who today couldn’t use more peace in their life?

When worry threatens to creep under my door, I call this little story to mind:

Once there was a ship that wrecked in a furious storm. The only survivor was a little boy who was swept by the waves onto a rock. He sat there all night long until, late the next morning, he was spotted and rescued.

“Did you tremble while you were on the rock during the night?” a reporter asked the boy.

“Yes,” he replied, “I trembled all night . . . but the rock didn’t.” (Adapted from an entry in “Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes” by Robert J. Morgan.)

Clinging to the rock — Jesus — provides solid comfort in the inevitable storms of life. But that’s just the first step. The next is to cooperate with Jesus’ second gift — the Holy Spirit — given when he breathed on the disciples. This Spirit guides and inspires us not to make life more difficult for ourselves. If we’re honest, we have to admit that much of the stress in our lives is actually self-induced.

For example, while I could worry about those four questions that I posed at the beginning of this column, it’s the Spirit of wisdom that allows me to conclude: My fingernails are just fine, thank you very much; using an Apple computer means that most of the really nasty viruses don’t target Macs; I don’t give a hoot about fashion, so “must-have” jeans are not even on my radar; and the chances of that destructive solar storm are low, scientists admit.

To help me sustain a more peaceful Easter season, I recently picked up a little book called, “Why Make Yourself Crazy? 100 Ways to Rid Your Life of Needless Stress” (Fairfield, Conn.: Pick Me Up Books, 2002; $9.95). Written by G. Gaynor McTigue, it’s described as an essential guide for anyone “who needs to slow down, take a breath and start enjoying life to the fullest.”

You can breeze through the book in about 20 minutes. It’s packed with common-sense, easy-to-follow suggestions. However, because most of us don’t actually do the things McTigue recommends, we’re making ourselves crazy. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.

Some of the book’s suggestions encourage simplifying your space: Throw something out every day; start with a clean work surface; and take ten minutes a day to neaten up. Others deal with our physical health, like getting adequate sleep and eating slowly. We can ease our mental distress by accepting that people think differently than we do; by expecting things to take longer and cost more; and by not carrying the world on our shoulders.

The last item in McTigue’s book is a dandy: Take stock. He advises readers to “think of your accomplishments, the obstacles you’ve overcome, the mistakes you’ve corrected, the blessings you’ve been given. . . . So periodically take a mental inventory of everything good in your life . . . and don’t let current troubles cloud your greater achievements. Why make yourself crazy?”

Why, indeed?

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