I Fret Therefore I Am

The Professional Worrywart Stumbles Upon a Solution

Darn those yearbook photos?they always come back to haunt us and remind the world that yes, we once thought puka shell necklaces were the epitome of fashion.

But a study at U.C. Berkeley found that yearbook photos do more than verify bad taste. Old photos from the 1958 and 1960 yearbooks of Mills College in Oakland, California, were analyzed, and researchers discovered that women who looked the happiest went on to live the happiest lives. The study concluded that “individual differences in positive emotional expression were linked to personality stability and development across adulthood.”

This would explain why, in my college photo, my eyebrows are stitched together and I look gravely concerned. Perhaps I was afraid someone would steal my puka shell necklace.

That photo captured my existence as a professional worrywart, which comes as no surprise when you consider my mentors.

Genetic paranoia
I learned from the best. Dad worried whenever it rained because he was a construction worker, and each day of rain meant he couldn’t work. Soon he’d be unemployed and we’d all end up in the poorhouse.

Mother worried that if I left the suburbs to visit San Francisco I would be kidnapped by an international ring of organ thieves who would rip open my abdomen and steal my appendix. She swore that she had once read that, in some countries, deep-fried appendix in peanut oil is considered an aphrodisiac.

As a child I naturally hung onto their every word. Today, however, I realize how needlessly they worried. So why in the world have I turned into their Mini-Me?

What, me worry?
I worry about growing old alone because I couldn’t find someone to love me. Or I worry about finding someone who loves me, except maybe this isn’t a healthy love but rather some sick obsession in which my admirer wants to shoot a president in order to impress me, because why else would he stare at me the way he does?

Or is he staring at that mole on my neck? The edges are a bit irregular. Maybe I have melanoma. But wasn’t I turned away as a blood donor for being anemic, which sometimes is a precursor to leukemia? And what about my dizzying headaches? Dr. Greene on “ER ” had the same signs and ended up with a brain tumor. Dear God!

The medical dictionary for hypchondriacs
I race through my medical dictionary and discover an illness in which I have every symptom. According to this book, I’m a doomed woman, doomed! Oh, but wait.

I don’t have a prostate. Never mind.

I read about a woman who awoke one morning to discover she lost use of both hands. Completely. They are now like two slabs of dead meat attached to her wrists and her doctors are mystified as to why.

I worry that I too might awake one morning with two slabs of dead meat attached to my wrists and wonder: how will I pluck my eyebrows? I phone my best friend, Pam, and make her promise that if I ever awaken with two slabs of dead meat attached to my wrists, she will pluck my eyebrows for me. I hear her sigh as she patiently replies yes. She’s heard all this before.

At bedtime I worry that I’ll fall asleep and forget to blow out my scented candle, the one just waiting to explode into engulfing flames the second my eyes are shut. It could happen, you know. Although I’m not yet sleepy, I blow it out.

Bob Marley and Jesus to the rescue
And with the radio playing softly, I start drifting off as the DJ begins Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”:

“Don’t worry about a thing, cause every little thing’s gonna be alright.”

I like that song because it echoes a favorite scripture, Luke 12:22-26: “Don’t worry so much about what might happen tomorrow, that you miss what is happening today.”

Which is excellent advice, I’d say, for that stern-faced girl with the puka shell necklace.