“Aren’t we all just waiting for bad news?” advice columnist Carolyn Hax wrote in 2009. She was responding to a reader who had asked for advice about waiting for a loved one’s medical test results. Her question – right there in the morning paper beside the daily TV schedule and across from Arlo and Janis and the Peanuts gang– struck me as profound. I clipped the column and have a poem in the works using that quote.

I know a few folks – like my dear Mama – who are most definitely not waiting on bad news. Mama could have major, risky surgery scheduled tomorrow and still sleep like a baby tonight. She says she asks herself, “Is this (thing I’m worried about) anything I can change?” If it is, then she gets up and does something about it. If it’s not, she puts it in God’s hands.

But if you’re anything like me, even the remote possibility of bad news has kept you awake – or awakened you at two a.m. – on more than one night. It’s haunted your work day; it’s nagged at the back of your mind as you tried to have a normal conversation with a colleague, a friend, a spouse. It’s made your heart race and your stomach knot. Maybe you’ve prayed; maybe you’ve meditated; maybe you’ve medicated. Or maybe, if you’re like Dani Shapiro, you’ve delved deeply and bravely into questioning just who or what it is you might pray to; just how you’ve come to believe what you believe; and just what you can do to achieve a sense of personal peace. (more…)

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