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I just finished reading Devotion, a memoir by Dani Shapiro. A friend suggested I read Shapiro’s best-seller Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. I enjoyed that so much that I’ve been on a Shapiro kick, reserving more of her books at the library.

At the heart of Devotion is Shapiro’s quest to “find meaning in a constantly changing world.” Fairly heavy stuff, but Shapiro addresses the topic with a blend of humor, seriousness and examples from her life that clarify her journey.

Our Weird Word part arrives in chapter 88, after Shapiro shares – throughout several chapters – the agony of dealing with her son’s infantile spasms. Extremely serious, these spasms affected Jacob as an infant. Thankfully, medication saved his life, but now that Jacob is in kindergarten, Shapiro wrestles with letting go. Jacob can barely ride his bike down the block or kick a soccer ball with friends, when Shapiro’s hyper-vigilance kicks in, becoming a sort of uber Helicopter Mom whose constant presence is the only thing – she thinks – standing between Jacob and certain disaster.

It’s very understandable, but Shapiro realizes this excessive worry has turned a corner, becoming unhealthy.

this photo shows a baby supposedly worrying“But still – I quietly worried,” she writes. “I zorged, a Yiddish word…which means ‘to create unnecessary anguish.'”

In the middle of a serious passage, I had to smile. There was my Weird Word Wednesday on the page. Zorged!

Raise your hand if you’ve zorged now and then….Yep, me, too.

It’s natural for parents to worry. It’s understandable that Shapiro would feel a sense of hyper-vigilance about Jacob’s well-being. But she realizes she’s doing him more harm than good when she crosses the line, her almost constant presence in his life an attempt to make sure nothing bad happens.

“Vigilance was essential. Vigilance was the only answer in the face of all that could possibly go wrong,” she writes. “Wasn’t it? I tried to make sure that my anxiety didn’t rub off on Jacob, but I’m sure it did.”

In other words, zorging wasn’t helping. At all.

The antidote, Shapiro found, was to live in the present moment. No zorging about what might – or probably wouldn’t –  happen in the future. And it was totally useless to worry about what already happened, because, well, it was over and done with.

How about you? Has zorging thrown a monkey wrench in your life? What have you done to get the monkey off your back?

stop worrying