I’ve never been too optimistic. It’s not that I see the glass half empty. It’s more that I foresee the glass somehow tipping over and shattering, after which I get a laceration on my foot from trying to pick up the shards, which then that gets infected and turns gangrenous and has to be amputated in an emergency surgery.
So I suppose you could call me paranoid.
I’ve always been prone to worrying. As a kid, I talked my parents into putting double locks on our doors after recurrent daymares – like nightmares, except you’re awake – about murderers breaking in. I almost convinced them to buy ladders for our bedrooms, in the case of a fire in our two-story home. I dreamed of serious illnesses, sudden demises; I always feared my parents dying.
But for most of my life, I had no reason to worry. I learned that bad things do happen, but not really to me. Then my middle-aged mom died when I was in high school. Fear ran my life for a long time after that.
I don’t believe all fears are bad. I think some are self-preserving. For instance, I’m terrified of getting into a crash with my son in the car. So I’ve done tons of research on car seat safety, which I’ll never be sorry I did.
Most of the time, though, my fretting is futile. At worst, it’s detrimental to me, and those around me. One night when my brother and I were both in college, I texted him, “What are you up to?”
“Out with friends,” he replied.
“Be careful,” I cautioned him, like I always did. “Don’t drink too much, and don’t you dare drink and drive.”
“Could you for once just tell me to have fun?”
I was so consumed with concern about those I loved that I’d never considered how taxing it could be for them.
Could I just say, have fun? Could I have fun myself?
For a while I could. I worked at it and got better.
Then I had a baby, and my anxiety of course went through the roof. Here was a helpless little being I had to keep alive, a human who had become as much a part of me as my heart, my lungs, my limbs – I could not lose him. It was scary – still is.
But an interesting thing happened when my son was born. I found myself asking the same old questions: What if this happens? What if that happens? What if the glass tips over?
And then I’d stop and wonder, well what if it doesn’t?
If there’s one thing my sweet boy has taught me, it’s that worst case scenarios happen, but best case ones do, too. My son is the only proof I’ll ever need of that.