My late grandmother Mabel was an epic worrier. I think it helped her pass the time.
“Oh Emmy, thank GOODNESS you’re home!” she would exclaim whenever I would call to inform her that I had returned from a business trip. It didn’t matter that I had only been gone for the day – just a short Amtrak ride away. I may as well have been in Afghanistan.
“I just feel better knowing that everyone I love is safe in their homes,” she would tell me time and time again. Her ability to fret was legendary, so much so that “don’t tell Mom-Mom” became a family watch cry. It didn’t take much to start the wringing of hands – and when Mom-Mom worried, we all suffered for it. When she passed away in 2007, we were partially comforted by the thought that she didn’t have to agonize over anything anymore. But that didn’t mean that we couldn’t.
Lately, I have been wondering if I have become the heir apparent to the Worrier Warrior title that she held so close. Maybe it is because I am getting older… or wiser… or dumber, but I have been clenched for months for 100 different reasons.
I worry that we won’t have enough money to pay for college; I worry that thy boys won’t appreciate college if we pay for it; I worry that the sharp pain in my stomach is the symptom of a deadly disease; I worry about missing work to schedule a doctor’s appointment; I worry that the doctor will weigh me and I will face the fact that I have not been taking care of myself; I worry that I’m not taking good care of my children; I worry that I care too much about my children; I worry that my kids don’t have enough friends; I worry that my kids don’t have the right friends; I worry that I’m not being a good friend; I worry about missing my flight; I worry that I am traveling too much; I worry that I will fail; I worry my kids will fail; I worry that I will never get everything done; I worry that I will miss something important; I worry that I am squandering my life; I worry that shootings at schools are commonplace; I worry about the call that is bound to come; I worry about the call that never will; I worry that the cat is fat and the dog looks sad; I worry about schedules and health and relationships and safety. All. The. Time.
I don’t think this is atypical of women of a certain age. We are high functioning, high anxiety beings who try to hide our insanity the best we can by scurrying around and distracting ourselves with busyness. But the grey cloud of dread is always hanging above, threatening to drizzle on the picnic or pour on the party. It really is no way to live. It is a private, exhausting, unsustainable state – and I am getting weary of it.
I was recently counseling a friend of mine who was facing some potential unpleasant surgery. I gave her the best advice I have ever received but have so often ignored: Wait to Worry. It takes effort for sure. But the idea of pushing back the demons until they are right on top of you makes a great deal of sense. Most of the time, they dont’t even get that close. Keep calm and carry on. Easy.
Of course there is the other school of thought which is that the more you worry, the more you inoculate yourself from whatever you are worrying about. I have found this
superstition strategy to be an excellent method for warding off the demons altogether. If you worry about them, they will never arrive. And most of the time, they don’t.
And so there I was, worrying about giving mixed advice. Sigh.
Well, awareness is the first step. I am now actively seeking oases from my Deserts of Angst – some nice cool places where I can hang my warrior hat for a short time. I was lucky to find such a spot Sunday evening when I forgave myself for not getting the Monday post written. (I worry about MoB readers too.) Rather than sitting down at the computer at 10:00 at night, I climbed into bed and breathed, knowing that everyone I love was somewhere safe in their homes. And for a moment I was worry free.
Somewhere out there, so too was Mom-Mom Mabel, knowing that this warrior will live to fight another day.