When I was 8, my mom bought me worry dolls on a trip through Arizona. They are tiny dolls made out of some embroidery floss and other mystery materials in a little yellow box that are sold throughout the Southwest in souvenir shops. You’re supposed to set them out at night to take care of your “worries.” (They came with instructions).
When I was little I took them very seriously. Most nights I would lay them out on my nightstand and tell each of them very specific things to fix. I was raised a pretty strict Catholic, so now looking back, it may have been some kind of silent rebellion against Catholic prayer, which I didn’t believe was working for me.
Even when I was little I knew they weren’t actually going to solve my problems, just like I knew praying wasn’t actually going to solve my problems or larger problems in the world. But despite all that, I always had a small hope somewhere deep down that maybe it would work but I wasn’t supposed to know that it would. How easy would life be if we could tell our problems to some tiny little dolls who would fix them overnight for us?
I stopped talking to the worry dolls except when I was having a really hard time with something – even in high school, I’m sure I pulled them out of the drawer in my nightstand a couple of times. I definitely never prayed outside of school or church except when I felt desperate, and even then it felt more like personal meditation rather than feeling like I was talking to someone. I wonder why those dolls always felt like more of a comfort that something so abstract as God. I think it was because they were so far removed from my own life and the things I was supposed to believe in that, in a way, I trusted them more. It was a higher power that wasn’t attached to a big church with gold statues, or mandatory days you had to believe in God, or mandatory prayers you had to recite. In that way, Catholicism eventually lost all mystery and all spirituality for me, even if subconsciously at first. It wasn’t something I could believe in at all.
I have always felt like it is something we don’t know and can’t describe and can’t pray to that will save us.