When I went to bed last night, I said good night to God and ended up listing my worries. After a moment I stopped and said, “It would be easier to list the things I’m not worried about.”

I came up with:

  • earthquakes
  • radioactive pizza that talks

Of course, to you this doesn’t sound rational at all. Everything over here at Casa Philangelus is going really well right now: why would I be worried? We’ve been unimaginably blessed, and while I know “tomorrow is not a promise” and our lives could change in an instant like it did for Job, disaster is not foreseeable enough to worry about it. Plus, Jesus told us not to worry because worry is pointless.

All good reasons not to worry. Which makes me worry more.

I’m a self-help book junkie. Being a writer gives me the necessity of being an armchair psychologist, so I’ve read anything I can get my hands on, regardless of whether it pertains to me, from “The Road Less Traveled” to “The Sociopath Next Door” to “Motherless Daughters” (and “Father Loss,” both for characters missing a parent) to “Raising Adopted Children” to “The Dance of Anger” and so on and so forth. Someone on a forum will recommend a book to someone else, or I’ll hear the author on the radio; the book twigs my interest; and the Angeltown Library more often than not has a copy. At the last Friends Of The Angeltown Library Used Book Sale (that’s a boatload of capital letters!) I picked up a copy of The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study by Judith Wallerstein.

My parents separated when I was five and divorced when I was eleven. I don’t consider it particularly traumatic: it’s just something that was. I don’t have long-lasting anger about it, and my parents handled it so well that you’d think they were the model parents described in the book for the ideal divorcing couple.

In a previous post I mentioned that an event last year brought to light how I didn’t trust God to have my best interests at heart. At the time, after some soul-searching, I realized the mistrust had some roots in the divorce. Also, last summer Kiddo#2 was exactly the same age I was when my parents separated, and that brought back some memories and some questions. That’s why when I found that book at the sale, I snapped it up. And then, of course, I took a year to open it.

In the introduction, among many other jaw-dropping sentences, I found this tidbit:

You’ve lived for years with the fear of loss and the worry that if you’re happy, it’s only a prelude to disaster. 

That’s exactly it. I’m most worried when nothing is wrong. In fact, I’ve often said that the bombshells in my life have all come when I’ve stopped  worrying about things; therefore, in my demented mind, if I worry about it, I’m actually preventing disaster.

I can show you a short story I wrote in second grade in which villagers are fighting a giant to save their town, and in the end they drive him off. Finally, they are safe. The last line of the story? “Then one day the food ran out and they all died.”

To restate things, here are my options: either we’re drowning in disaster and all effort must be marshaled to preserve the family, or else things are going great and God’s about to whack us down with the hammer of destruction. 

The author speaks to the spouses of adult children of divorce, also from the introduction:

Your spouse has deep anxieties that seem strangely out of sync in such an otherwise highly-functioning person.

That’s pretty much me. I felt very understood in reading this book, less like an alien from a parallel world. Insight into one’s own inner thought processes is always a good thing. Even though I’m only on page eighteen, I can tell it’s going to be a rough ride, but a good one.


  1. xdpaul

    I know I really shouldn’t take advantage of a child’s heartbreaking anxiety, but I absolutely love the story about the village that bands together to fight the giant, restores order and then gets wiped out in a sentence. I wish adult writers made such bold reversals in their stories. Plus, I’m partial to giants. Serves those meddling villagers right!

    Man, though, I’m so glad that you coincidentally found that book and that it is coincidentally speaking to your specific situation. I’ve had a similar experience before with a book, with lasting effects, that I’m grateful for.

    And no, it wasn’t Paris Hilton: The Unauthorized Biography.

    Here’s to the rest of your life being less beset by the anticipation of disaster and more bound up in the seemingly insane mercies of a humble, mighty God.

    Rejoice evermore.

  2. CricketB

    Hugs to the little girl in you who lost her family to divorce.

    I hear you about books and other messages being there at the right time. I used to try and get every message I could from a source, now I take the ones that are right for today, and trust that the rest will come again when I’m ready for them. I keep the doors open by wandering aimlessly through the library or museum or park or good blogs or church or (shameless plug) storytelling guild.

    As for worrying about the next bombshell, I look at the calm between crises as a blessing, and enjoy it. It’s a gift, and I do my best to accept it gracefully.

    I also find using the moments of calm to prepare for emergencies helps with the worry. My son, age 9, asked what would happen if we die. He was quite happy when I briefly explained the plans we’ve made, and the places he could go for help of any kind. Big worry shrunk to size.

  3. AnotherFaceInTheCrowd

    That’s fascinating, actually. I haven’t lived through divorce, or even an uncongenial home life, but that feeling of things going well being only a prelude to disaster rings so true for me and is something I really struggle with, to the point of hating to make firm plans as I’m only going to be blindsided by some disaster I didn’t forsee.

  4. Pingback: Book Review: Cracking the Parenting Code « Seven angels, four kids, one family