Tonight I went out to see a movie with my sister, Roshan. I can’t remember the last time we went to a see a film, just the two of us – in fact, perhaps we’ve never done that. When we get together, it’s usually to talk. However, we both wanted to see The Imitation Game, a film about Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who created the device that cracked the Nazi’s “Enigma” code in World War II. The story was of particular interest to me because my favorite professor of Japanese at Cambridge, Carmen Blacker, had been drafted to Bletchley Park to crack Japanese codes. She lived a long, rich life and touched the lives of many students. Turing was not as lucky, but I’ll say no more about his story.
My sister and I were both moved by this skillfully crafted film and were savoring it for a few moments, when Roshan got a text that immediately pulled her back to the reality of life and custody arrangements for her daughter. Her anxiety immediately level rose and we quickly shifted gears. We were no longer discussing World War II, brilliant mathematicians, narrow-minded people and brilliant actors. Now she was worried about negotiating her time with her daughter and about how her daughter is coping with all the change. And now, because I’m a seasoned worrier too, I was worried about her – about how hard she is on herself and how much she doubts herself. I was also worried about her daughter and how she is learning to worry and doubt herself too, because this is something we women tend to do – a lot. To some degree, worry can be useful, but past that degree it can become a weapon of self-destruction, that eats away at our spirits and often our bodies too.
In Guatemala, there is the belief that worries can be taken away by worry dolls, muñecas quitapenas, tiny colorful dolls that are traditionally placed under pillows at night to absorb worries while people sleep. In my car, I had a notebook with worry dolls on the cover that I was given a couple of years ago. I already have some worry dolls that I keep in my bedside table. Roshan laughed when I gave her the notebook and suggested she write her worries in the notebook. We hugged and got into our separate cars. I raced home to write. Today’s blog truly is all over the map, from British spies, to my sister her in Los Angeles to Guatemalan folk customs – not as neat as I’d have liked it to be. But, I’m going to try not to worry about it. And if I do, all I have to do is open that drawer by my bed.