Friday, January 30, 2009

Worrywart


We are celebrating both of our kids birthdays this weekend. With birth dates only a week apart, their parties are usually combined. I know this vaguely dissatisfies both of them. But they cope.

This celebration always sends my mind wandering. I don’t spend much time reminiscing about my earlier adulthood. Primarily because most of it is a blur. Between figuring out how to be married, have babies, rear children, including one with special needs, buy a house, make a home, deal with daycare and schools, pay bills, see doctors, bumps in the marriage and a career, it’s no wonder that big chunks of my 30’s and 40’s are hazy at best. This is the common complaint of every parent.

I once told a friend, that the last thing I remembered was smoking hashish my senior year of high school. The next thing I knew I'd been married 30 years, had two grown kids and a career in the last industry I ever imagined working in. I wasn’t joking. Most days, that’s how I felt. And a lot of those days, a nice long toke on a bong would probably have done me a world of good. However, I keep reminding myself, middle-aged, middle class, career-oriented mothers DO NOT DO THAT!!!

With the kids grown and quasi-independent, I have more time to stop and enjoy the moment. Many moments are very sweet. But I also have more time to worry. And unless you’ve been living under a rock this past year, you are aware of all there is to worry about right now.

When my husband and I were raising a family we worried continually. We worried about tuitions, mortgage payments and especially about coping with a child’s disability and the attendant doctors, hospitals, clinics, therapists, seminars, support groups, experts, documentation and schools the disability entailed. We worried about how this affected our other child. We worried that we didn’t have enough time to make long languorous love, or even take a quick fuck. We worried when our careers hit major potholes periodically and that one of us sometimes drank too much and the other was often remote and distant. But those were internal worries, unique to our insulated world, issues over which we knew we could exercise at least some control.

Now I have time for big picture worries, worries about issues far outside my own control.


As far as the current economic mess goes, my family has been lucky so far. We lost a chunk of our retirement, but we have time to make it back. We’ve remained fairly insulated from the crisis so many people are dealing with. But I’m not insulated from recognizing the peril families now face, and ache for them all.


I hoped after the election and Inauguration the economic tailspin would right itself fairly quickly. I don’t see that happening. There is only so much one person, one President, can do when the whole world has decided to fall apart all at once.


I watch with anxious eyes the latest goings-on in the middle east. Our relationship with every country in that region is, in my humble opinion, fucked up.
I watch the strutting, blustery posturing of the Israelis and the fanatical zealotry of the Palestinians and their supporters throughout the region with increasing anxiety. Both sides' complaints and issues are valid, their current situation is not viable. Every time we interfere or take sides, we seem to make it that much worse. Regardless of what we do, the entire region is on a timetable that will eventually run its course. I can’t hazard to guess how it will end up. But I can worry about the resolution.

I look at the image we’ve portrayed to the world through our behavior in Iraq and the lowering of our standards regarding human rights, personal accountability and fairness. Then I wonder why anyone else bothers to talk to us. What would happen if the rest of the world just started shunning us?

My list of angst-filled concerns go on and on. I haven’t even mentioned the bizarre man-child in North Korea and worrying about what the hell he is up to. There are nuclear warheads still aimed at points all over the earth and the increasing likelihood that at least some of them will end up in the wrong hands. (I don’t believe there are actually any “right” hands when it comes to this issue.)

I can barely bring myself to think of the polar ice caps melting, the extinction of entire species whose only fault was they had the bad luck to inhabit the earth at the same time as humans. Every time I turn off a light, set back my thermostat or put gas in my hybrid, I feel a sense of futility.

But mainly I worry about how we collectively react to the stress caused by all of these overwhelming problems. Do we isolate ourselves further, guarding clearly marked borders and lines in the sand? Do we waste time longing for some pie in the sky idea of the good old days? Do we obsessively point fingers in blame? Do we cling to ideas and actions we know will never work but keep hoping that if we stick to our wrongheaded-ness just one more time a miracle may occur? Do we ignore the valuable lessons history can teach us simply because history reminds us of our past failures and we cannot bear to admit we have been idiots, yet again?

Or do we blunder ahead together, trying to collectively climb out of this mile deep hole with just 2 feet of rope? Hoping that even though we don’t know what we are doing, but keeping in mind some lessons of history and moving ever forward, eventually we will move out of this morass? I’m fairly certain this is the only option we have. But I worry that no one else will see it that way.

In the meantime, I donate to the local food bank, I write my checks to organizations that provide direct aid. I volunteer. I engage politically. I try and be a better person. None of which relieves my unease.


So, after whipping myself up into a fury of worry, I again consider the only two surefire ways I can think of to get me out of my angst filled ruminations. One, get my tubes untied and try really, really hard for a miracle, get pregnant again and fall back into the stupor that befalls all parents while raising children, thereby relieving me of any time or brain-power to worry about the rest of the world.

Or, forget how foolish I will look in my “maturely” sophisticated, black business pant suit and stacked heels, driving around the city in my Prius, squinting at street signs because I won’t give in and wear the damn bifocals, and searching for a connection to score some hashish, while praying the dealer accepts American Express.

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