I sit on the couch fretting about one thing or another, none of which I can control. Bob sighs with exasperation. “Martha, I wish you didn’t worry so much,”
"I wish I didn't either," I reply. And I mean it.
Bob’s right. I do worry too much, even though I tell him that worriers often see real danger where other more care free types do not. “We worriers are the survivors of the world,” I say.
Yet, survival and living are not synonymous. Living implies a joie de vivre that mere survival does not. And, as I can attest, nothing takes the joie de vivre out of life more than worry and fear.
Sometimes, when worry overtakes me, I take deep breaths, repeat a mantra, or try to distract myself with books and music. But worry is a learned and deeply ingrained habit.
Both of my folks were children of the Great Depression. Like others who came of age during those brutal years, I think they remained worried and fearful most of their lives. They worked hard to achieve security, but never quite trusted that it was theirs to keep.
They knew, from experience, that security was precarious; like the stock market crash of 1929, everything they'd worked for and achieved could be snatched away at a moment's notice. And so, they lived vigilantly, on guard against any and all sorts of real and imagined dangers.
I once remarked to a friend that I can’t recall either of my parents ever telling me to ‘have fun.’ My sister and I heard a lot of cautionary phrases like 'watch out, be careful, don’t run, don’t talk to strangers, wait until you’re older, slow down, not so fast, stay out of the deep end, don’t dive,' etc.
Mother’s and Daddy’s world was a dangerous place and to a degree, their assessment was rational. As the old saying goes, no one gets out of here alive. But there’s a fine balance between rational and irrational.
Where Anita and I were concerned, Daddy, especially, veered off the rational track into the realm of Crazyville. He wouldn’t allow Anita to ride a bicycle until she was 12 because she might get hurt; he wouldn’t permit either one of us to join a high school social club because we might not be properly supervised; and most onerous, he wouldn’t let me join my high school’s marching band because the band traveled to away games with the football team and God only knows what kind of peril a pretty girl might encounter with those randy foot ball players!
Like I said, Crazyville.
Yet, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. I too have squandered much precious time fretting and wringing my hands in the hellish landscape of my own little Crazyville. If not for my husband, out of fear, I too would have deprived my boys of normal, healthy experiences the way Daddy's fear deprived Anita and me. Fortunately, my husband, who doesn’t worry, ran interference: “Martha, stop! You have to let them go. Let them be boys!” he’d say.
I think I mostly did.
Living with the inevitability of risk is a fact I’ve reluctantly come to grips with. I just wish it hadn’t taken me 66 long years to arrive at what should have been an obvious realization: worrying is both futile and a killjoy.
Realization doesn’t automatically translate into change either. Old habits die hard. I'm still a worrier and likely always will be.
Be Well and Good Luck,