A few days ago, I found myself in an all-day orchestra rehearsal. Typically I enjoy these – except I really, really needed to send someone an email, and the file I needed to attach was in my laptop at home.
As the day went on I gradually got more and more aggravated as I thought of how long the person was having to wait to receive the file. I kept thinking of how annoyed they must be, and how unprofessional I was for not having sent it before leaving the house.
On and on these thoughts went until an hour or so before rehearsal ended I realized … My worrying wasn’t going to get me anywhere. All I was doing was using up energy for no good reason. Dwelling wasn’t going to get me home any faster to send that email. I was already in touch with the person and informed them I’d be sending it a little late, and that was all I could actually do. All my worrying was doing was distracting myself from the present moment.
Stress isn’t related to how much work you have to do, it’s related to what’s going on in your head
My situation reminded me of a story my friend Nechama shared with me:
A psychologist was teaching stress management to an audience. She raised a cup of water, and asked everyone, “How heavy do you think this glass of water is?”
Expecting another half-full/half-empty question, the crowd gave a variety of answers. “10oz? 14oz? 16oz? 18oz? 20oz?”
“Well,” she said, “the absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. A minute won’t be a problem. After an hour, I might feel a dull ache. If I hold it a day, my arm would feel paralyzed. But the weight of the water never changed. The longer I hold it, the heavier it felt.”
“The stresses and worries of our life are just like the cup of water. Think about them for a while, nothing happens. Think about them longer, and it starts to hurt. Think about them all day, and you’ll feel paralyzed and helpless. Learn to put the glass down.”
But of course, we know there’s more to the story: you don’t only put the glass down. As another famous quote puts it, “Let go, and Let G-d.” We all need to put our glasses down, and then leave it to G-d.
Sometimes we find we made mistakes, or find ourselves stuck in situations. We find ourselves away from home and desperately needing to rush back to send an email. We find ourselves desperate to find a new job, a new house, a new something. We’re stressed about the coming holidays. We’re stressed about work/life balance. We’re stressed that we’re stressed. We’re stressed about correcting a mistake we made, and can’t sit still until everything is fixed and in perfect order, possibly even disrupting our eating and sleeping patterns. We find ourselves stuck in traffic and getting more and more stressed as each minute ticks by and we can’t move forward. We’re stressed that we have too much to do, or too little. In our day and age, it actually more uncommon to not be stressed on a daily basis.
But what is all this stress doing for you, for all of us? Nothing. Put your glass down. Do whatever you can in your situation – send your resume to new places, make some calls to some real estate agents, make a to-do list to get organized, etc. – then sit back, let go, and let G-d.
Because truth is, at the end of the day, we don’t have the power to do anything, really. Everything only happens according to G-d’s will. If G-d wants something to happen for you, it will. If He has another plan for you, He will lead you towards it. All you need to do is learn how to identify exactly the only things within your power to control – and act only on those. And from there, put down your glass, and trust G-d to carry it for you. Because really, whether you worry or not, things will happen as they should, right? So why worry? Will worrying get your out of traffic faster? No. So why not just go along for the ride? 🙂
We’re all too busy. We’re all stressed. But we don’t have to be. Stress isn’t related to how much work you have to do, it’s related to what’s going on in your head: how much work you’re constantly dwelling on, thinking about, and carrying on your shoulders. Don’t carry the weight longer than you have to. Do your part of the job, then let go and let G-d.
This entry is dedicated to the memory of Bayla Yehudit bas Yitzchak as an aliyah for her neshama, and for the refuah of Alizah bas Sara. If you want me to dedicate my next entry to someone you know in their memory or for their refuah, feel free to leave a comment below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bernice is a Noahide from the Philippines who spends most of her time playing violin, being involved in musicology research, and writing about various topics (her favorite being Judaism). The rest of the time, she can be found drinking coffee, reading, and convincing herself to workout.