There’s something new to worry about today: Eastern Equine Encephalitis, known by the catchy little phrase, “Triple E!” like some major sports team. But this is no group of hulking hockey players or leggy basketball stars. Triple E is a mosquito-born illness that drops horses to the ground and is fatal in about one-third of human cases. Symptoms? Delightful: headaches, vomiting, seizures, coma, and then pow! That’s it for you! All because you wanted to garden or walk your dog and forgot to take a bath in Off.
Now I’m worried about those three mosquito bites I got yesterday.
Most people who know me think I have a sunny disposition. I once had a boyfriend in college, in fact, who said, “I didn’t think you were very smart. I thought you must be kind of a ditz because you were laughing all of the time.”
Right. I’m laughing because otherwise I wouldn’t step out of my house. The truth is that I’m a nonstop worrier.
What do I worry about? A better question might be: What DON’T I worry about?
As a child, I was terrified of the dark. I had frequent waking visions of a man in a black cloak sitting in a nonexistent rocking chair next to my bed. I still sleep with a light on when I’m alone.
I’m seldom alone now. I’m married, and my husband and I have five children together. But here’s the thing about having so many children. You would think you’d worry LESS, because you have a few kids to spare, but instead each and every one of them is a source of worry. This isn’t because ours are bad children. Far from it! Our kids are remarkably well-adjusted, normal, high functioning children. But I love them, so I worry. Diseases; skateboarding, bike and car accidents; being hurt in love; losing their jobs: all possible worry topics. Never a shortage there.
Oh, and then there’s that pesky daughter in Alaska, who keeps telling me that I don’t have to worry about her being out in the woods “because everyone I know has a gun, Mom.” Yep. I feel so much better now.
My husband has a thing on his nose and a thing on his lip. Is that skin cancer? What would I do if he died? He is my soul mate. Plus, he is the only one in this family who can fix my laptop and make the cranky lawnmower start. I would be lost without him.
I worry about war. Oh, how I worry about war. Why the hell are we still sending people to Afghanistan when we’re supposed to be pulling out? Why does this president, who I adore, continue to act like he’s in charge of killing every bad guy on the planet, and a bunch of innocent civilians as well, with drones that kill families walking down the street as easily as they take out terrorist leaders?
I worry about the economy, and the fact that even here in wealthy, liberal, health-plan-passed Massachusetts there are hidden pockets of desperation. Cities like Holyoke, which look so hopeless that I have to wonder how we can all just keep driving by it on the highway and ignore the fact that it looks like a war zone.
I worry about that weird rash on my son’s elbow.
I worry about our house, which needs work done in almost every room, from that moldy place where the water always leaks in the shower to the shingles falling off the roof and the pot holes in the drive way. Why did we buy such an old house, a money pit that we work on every day, little by little, with no hope of ever finishing it? Why didn’t we just keep the first house we ever bought—paid off, in fact? The kids are leaving us, one-by-one, and we don’t need so much space any more.
I worry about my garden. The drought has been brutal on my flowers—even the cone flowers are drooping—which leads me to worry about the farmers and their corn, the food prices this coming year, and yes, what about global warming?
I’m worried about three friends battling cancer. I worry that I’ll get cancer.
I worry that I’ll never be thinner than this.
I worry about my mother, so bravely living on her own, after burying her mother, her husband, and her two brothers. She was at the bedsides of each of them. I will be at her bedside, I hope. And dread.
I worry about my youngest brother, about to become a first-time father at age 45. He doesn’t know what he’s in for, and I hope it all goes well.
I worry about all of the violence around the world, and the people who can’t walk their kids to school or buy groceries—if they even have money for food—because someone might be driving or walking by with a bomb about to go off. How can we all be bent on so much destruction?
My dog is still wagging his tail and eating, but he has a disease that has made his legs splay out from under him so that he can barely make it up the single step into the kitchen. I worry that I’ll have to put him to sleep, or that I won’t put him to sleep soon enough.
I worry that the Mars Rover will discover that we are alone, after all.
I worry that I’m the only one worrying. But I suspect that I am not.
Maddie Dawson says
Oh, Holly! You are so not alone! I am a professional worrier–and just like with you, people always think I have a sunny disposition, too. What’s up with that? You’d think that people like us, people who can easily come up with 1,578 immediate things to worry about, would NEVER be mistaken for people who don’t just know the world is about to fall apart. Hmmm, I’m going to have to think this over and try to figure it out. Maybe you’re right: if we quit smiling, we’d just get under our beds and never come out. That must be it. GREAT essay! And now I’m going to go contemplate the chances of someone being on Mars….