Worry is a nasty demon, all the nastier because it convinces most people that they are all the more responsible if they allow it to possess them. It has followed me for as long as I can remember. One teacher, trying to alert my family to the way they were affecting me, said “All she ever does is sit in the back and look worried.” My mother laughed at this; I’ve accounted for her absurd, stress-inducing treatments of my condition after in previous posts.
In a college honors class, the professor required us to keep a journal where we hand wrote essays on topics related to class reading. I actually no longer remember the topic – the journal is long gone from my possession – but I do remember writing this: “What I want most of all is to be able to stop worrying.”
Of course, it wasn’t just my parents who benefited from keeping me in a state of stress. When calm, I became dangerous to any detractor. When the constant buzz of all the things that mine spin out of control was silenced, I recognized when people were being crazy and manipulative. I recognized the real source of a problem. I spotted the small, elegant solution to any problem, applied with minimal effort and only the slightest rearrangement.
There is a philosophy in corporate culture now – a bad one – that keeping their employees hyperstressed improves productivity. It’s usually the same corporations that cheerfully destroy the entire planet for the profit of ten or so individual shareholders. They are insane, sociopathic, do not give a shit if they even destroy themselves so long as they win at the competition that they concoct in the absence of any reason to compete.
They are the Cthulhoid demon consuming us all, using their tentacles to rip at our ovaries and balls as we go down, chittering and insane. After a while they just need to shake a tentacle and we do it to ourselves, like when you point at a kid and make a “tickle” noise and the kid starts to giggle.
The types of worry that have been most contagious to me?
One: worry about the inevitable.
You lose people to two things: death, and time. There is nothing you can do about either. While I’ve mastered the letting go part on death (though I have yet to find a gracious way to grieve), time is a different story. I still struggle with that one.
My junior year of high school I had a wonderful, loving relationship with my boyfriend. I had met him in driver’s ed the year before and we took to each other; I was a cute girl who didn’t care he was a nerd, he was a boy that actually wanted to talk to me about nerdy things and there was no shame attached to any curiosity, mine or his. That year with him gave me more real happiness than anything had, ever – it was a sacrosanct bond that not even my mother managed to find a way to ruin.
But I knew it wasn’t forever. He was a merit scholar with a very bright future; I was never going to stand between him and his dreams because I would rather see the people I love succeed than have them by my side forever. This is still true of me.
We would be together in his parents’ basement, dancing (if I made him), playing video games (if he made me), making out (we both liked that) and I would just start crying. I knew he was going to leave soon. I think he stayed in more denial about it than me – it was truly the now that mattered to him, something that at that time grounded me and gave me the first real peace I’d enjoyed – but he would try to comfort me, he would promise not to leave me behind (I hated that. You make promises you can’t keep for yourself, only) and then we’d be fine, we’d watch a movie or talk and it was all well. But in the back of my mind I knew that this beautiful thing was going to be over soon. Time had moved on and we were drifting towards our end.
Two: worry about money.
Every single second of my college life was colored with my constant worry about how I was going to pay for the next semester. It’s a rotten way to go through school with that constant distraction in the back of your mind; it was also because I was aware that my mother was looking for any excuse she could concoct to pull me out of school so I’d be forced to live the life – the very crappy, boring, devoid of joy life and filled with her and my sister’s drama life – that she had planned for me for her own benefit. Transferring to a school in Minnesota helped; for a decent parent I wasn’t that far, but for her, I might as well have moved to Mars. So at least if I had to drop out of school it wouldn’t be because of family manipulation – and I thus increased my chances of actually finishing. It took me awhile and the loans make me cringe but I did make it work.
Even so, the money worry has haunted me. It crops up while I’m writing. “What if this doesn’t sell? What if I don’t make any money from this? I must make my blog profit!!!”
These thoughts are exactly the thoughts that prevent me from profiting. It affects both the financial and the creative. It’s the elephant you’re not supposed to think about – and it will wind its way in there. It’s quite maddening.
The minute I get so engaged in a project that I can’t stop to think whether it will garner me anything, I spin gold. It’s really hard to get to that point. Usually, then, someone else possessed by the worry demon tries to jump in there and mess up that flow – it’s the law of the universe, for every step forward there will be some attempt at pull back.