I used to be a good worrier . I used to spend most of my days worrying . I spent years in school worrying about assignments , and homework , and tests , and grades . I invested most of my intellectual energy and expertise in worrying . I came upon it smoothly , slipped into it like it was a snug warm coat on a cold day . I was good at it . Worry fit me like a glove , too .
Or like a straight jacket .
I didn’t know that my worry should be worrisome to me . I hadn’t really known any other existence , I guess .
Let’s take an elementary school spelling test , for example . You remember those . I think it was written somewhere in the Constitution , or maybe in the Articles of Confederation : 20 word test every Friday . Write the words out , first , during the week , in cursive . Maybe make up a few sentences with them . Most mothers in those days tested the kid on the words at home the day before the test . Friday came the test . Every Friday . Teachers always wrote the test scores at the top of the students’ papers in red ink . Each and every week I had to worry about these tests . I had to defuse one of these little monsters every week .
I didn’t figure all this out until I was nearly out of high school : All the time , energy , and emotion invested in worrying about the spelling test , or whatever test or , etc. , whatever , detracted from what might , otherwise , have been an efficient study experience , no mess , no stress . In other words , rather than worry for twelve hours as I would about a stupid little weekly quiz , or about whatever , I might have not worried and instead simply studied for an hour , got my A , and gone home .
This is not news to A students . They knew this intuitively already . When I discovered the truth , purely by accident , sometime in late high school , I was a little shocked . Why hadn’t anyone told me before that if I didn’t spend so much time worrying , I could spend less time on study , and , and get higher grades ? I was at that moment of realization a turnip just having fallen off the turnip truck . The fall woke me up , though , finally. Better late than never .
But , anyway , that was a long time ago . I still worry once in awhile , I guess , if I’m bored and need something to do . But that doesn’t happen much .
I don’t worry about the economy , or the Middle East , or crime in the streets , or all the government conspiracies that I should be scared of , or whether I should pass on gluten and caffeine , or beer , or animal fat in my meals , because worry really has no practical function . And I don’t smoke , so I’m mostly o.k. Isn’t that what the doctors ask first before they check out your other problems : ” Are you a smoker ?”
There’s a folk tale called The Three Sillies . One of the sillies sees the reflection of the moon in a lake and worries that the moon has sunk into the lake and might drown . The other sillies bring rakes and try to get the moon out of the lake . Everyone is hyper , worried , and full of energy and desperately engaged in useless activity , planning strategies , involved in one useless worried task after another . Later in the tale there is a hammer , I think , that someone has placed on a rafter . The sillies worry that the hammer will fall down and hurt someone. They race around in worry , wondering how to save themselves from the hammer . A stranger walks in and sees all the activity ; asks about it . The sillies express all the complicated worries about the hammer ; mention several strategies they’ve devised to avoid the hammer when it falls . They’ve really put a tremendous amount of worry work into this . The stranger reaches up and takes the hammer down from the rafter ; puts it in a safe place .
I’m not much good at worrying any more . If something goes to hell then I’ll worry about it . But I’ll wait until it goes to hell before worrying . At the very least , until it’s already chin -deep in purgatory .
My conspiracy-theory Facebook friend John would most likely tell me to wake up , that the country’s already gone to hell . A mutual friend , however , told me that John’s bark is worse than his bite . I’m not so sure about that . But I’m not going to worry about it .