I am someone who tends to worry, so when I found myself in a state of calm recently, I was, frankly, worried.
The calm reminded me of how I felt traveling through New Zealand by myself four years ago. Everywhere I went, whenever I talked to people, they told me, "No worries!" So I didn't. I spent three weeks in a state of bliss. Then I returned to the USA and ran smack dab into worry. Mainly because it's my default position, and no one was telling me otherwise all day long, every day.
I wracked my brain, trying to figure out why I was so calm of late. Not due to exercise and meditation, which are part of my daily routine. While they cut down on worry, something or other is bound to pop up, causing me to gnash my teeth and twirl my hair (no wonder it's so curly).
And I also hadn't been stressing out about anything health-related. Having been raised by overly anxious parents, who tended to hear a cough and label it bronchitis or who would say, "I hope you're not coming down with that nasty flu bug that's going around," if they hadn't heard from me in a couple of weeks, I have grown into someone who sees a freckle on my hand and wonders what kind of skin cancer it is.
I also hadn't been worrying about my mother. We had been in touch via email and voicemail messages. I trusted all was well. Then I called her and left a message. I call her every Friday to say "Shalom Shabbat!" We always have a nice chat.
On this particular Friday, she had plans to have dinner with friends. She said she'd be home late. I figured I'd catch her when she came home. Except I had to leave a message. Then I assumed when I returned home I would find a message from her, thanking me for mine and saying "Shabbat Shalom." Except never assume--no message awaited me.
Where was she? I regretted not calling earlier when I was boiling chickpeas. What if she had driven home, gotten out the car, and collapsed in the driveway? Why hadn't I called her earlier? What if she were still lying in the driveway? What if someone had hit her over the head?
I hadn't called her earlier because I didn't know if she'd be home and if she hadn't been home, I would have worried, so I was trying to protect myself by calling when I knew she'd be home, except she wasn't and I should have called her and what if something had happened? What if? What if?
I fell asleep, until I remembered she was Missing In Action. Then worry nudged me out of my dream, and I woke up, lying awake for over an hour, trying to figure out the reasons she wasn't calling me back. I thought of how this has happened before, and she has told me not to worry. I thought that maybe she got home late, appreciated my message, then went to bed. That was a calm and reasonable thought. Perhaps too calm and reasonable for the worrier in me. I went back to my worst case scenario reasoning. Over and over until I fell asleep for a couple more hours. I woke at 5, and decided to call her at eight in the morning her time.
"Hello," she said.
"I was worried because I didn't hear from you," I said. "I worried you had collapsed or someone hit you over the head."
We talked and talked. She said she got home late, appreciated my message, and went to bed.We laughed and laughed. We laughed about my anxiety, my inherited trait. We laughed so much, all my worry washed away. I was in a state of calm again.
Causes Eva Schlesinger Supports
Center For Young Women's Development
Alameda County Library Foundation