Recently, I was filling out paperwork at a doctor’s office. The human experience of owning a body was broken up into sections - digestive system, endocrine system, vascular system. The systems were broken up into ailments - ulcers, hyperthyroidism, hemophilia. Check any you have or have had in the past.
I was mostly check mark free (knock on wood). But, the mental health section was a mess of marks. Anxiety, depression, eating disorders, history of abuse—suddenly I felt like I was going to run out of ink.
But within this three-column list of troubles, one stood out.
__Worry about things.
Do I have a history of worrying about things?
Dear doctor, I am from a long line of proud worriers. I am from a family that demands that you let a person know when you leave a location so they can (and I quote) “worry you home” as a way to get you there safely. This is said without irony.
My family calls this the “dead in a ditch” worry. You call your mother and tell her where you are, or else she’ll think you’re dead in a ditch. My brother and I used to roll our eyes with resentment at this cloud of needless worrying from under which we were asked to grow up.
But, now I am 25. Not nearly grown up, but my worrying has almost matured to the point of deserving my last name.
I worry every time I hear an ambulance in the city, that they’re going toward my boyfriend on his bicycle. I try to remember if I had been cooking anything that day every time I hear a fire truck. When my dog is too good sitting under a table while I’m out to eat, I wonder if she’s picked something up off the ground and is somehow lethargic with pain. I worry about my co-workers running for the bus, what if they trip and fall? I worry about my best friend nearly across the country living alone, what could happen to her in there?
I worry about the door being locked, the alarm being set. I check my dog’s harness and leash constantly— always a second glance, an extra pet on her neck to ensure it’s all secure. I worry about growing older. I worry about the bump in my ear. I worry about my sinuses and my posture and my mind. What if I lose my ability to write things down? What if I’m blinded by a freak comet that comes out of the sky at random while I’m eating a food truck taco?
What if I let every one down? Or what if everything is gone in an instant and I didn’t have a chance to capture it? If I didn’t appreciate it enough or in the right ways, would it, therefore, be my fault once it’s gone?