So Many Things To Worry About, So Little Time

(My newspaper column from The Beach Reporter 8/15/91.)

I am worried that I spend too much time worrying about things. It goes beyond being a mother, although a good amount of my worrying time is directed toward my children. Sometimes my worrying is global in nature. I worry about repression in China, terrorism, and the hole in the ozone layer.

I blame this syndrome partly on CNN, partly on the fact that I read several newspapers a day, and partly on the fact that I am a woman. Men don’t worry about the same things as women.
Men worry about how they are going to pay for college, even though their child is only a year old. Women worry about whether that same child is getting enough green vegetables, and are his feet turning in just a little?

Maybe if I stopped absorbing all this news every day I could lead a happy-go-lucky, worry-free life of ignorance. I wouldn’t know that the lead in the wrapper that seals the cork of wine bottles may cause lead poisoning. I wouldn’t know that my cutting board is a haven for a hundred strains of bacteria. I wouldn’t worry about parasites in sushi, pesticides on apples, or what’s really in a hot dog.

My list of things I worry about would probably provide a field day for a therapist, but I don’t think I am alone. See if there aren’t a few things on my list that cause you anxiety.
I still worry that when I take a Tylenol that I got a batch from the Tylenol killer. They never really solved that case.
I worry that someday they’ll discover that people who eat chocolate every day have ten years cut off their lives.
I worry that I will never write a poem as brilliant as Emily Dickinson, or as compelling a novel as Amy Tan.
I worry because I haven’t read a fraction of the essays, poems, and books I want to read.
I worry about invisible household toxins like lead paint, radon gas, and fumes emanating from wallpaper. Every day it seems there is a new way your house can kill you.
I am not worried that my husband is having an affair, but it worries me that I am not worried.
I am worried that I threw away the envelope from Publisher’s Clearing House, and that I was the million dollar winner, and now I will never know.
After I read one report, I worry that I exercise too much. Then the next week another report says I don’t exercise enough. I worry because I don’t know who to believe.
I try not to worry that right around here we are surrounded by oil refineries, plants using hazardous materials, brown air, and an ocean full of sewage.
I worry that either my husband or myself will have a mid-life crisis and decide to go sell Frisbees on a beach somewhere.
At the grocery store last week, a woman pointed to my plastic milk container and said, “Haven’t you heard that toxins from plastic containers seep into the milk?”
Is my hairspray killing me and also causing the polar ice cap to melt? Are all those disposable diapers I used going to cause the earth to shift on its axis? Will the flea spray I used in the family room give us all cancer?

With my children, my worries are more concrete. All you have to do is read one of those lists like “Top Ten Ways Young Children Die in Accidents.” My recent life has been spent with a wary eye toward those top ten. My husband has never read the list, and that worries me.

After reading that list, you get rid of all hot dogs, peanuts and grapes (choking), make sure your toilet lid has a lock (drowning), and get rid of all house plants (potentially toxic).

The biggest worry though, if you have kids, is that unless you have them surgically attached to you, it’s just a matter of time before they do something stupid. The reason we, as adults, know this is because we have all done incredibly stupid things in our own lives.

We can put covers on all the electrical outlets, a fence around the swimming pool, and buckle up the seat belts. But the minute you turn around, your toddler is putting a cigarette butt in her mouth at the park.

I guess the thing I worry about the most is that all this worrying will take years off my life.

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