To say I’m anxious is an understatement. I’m more like a forecaster of doom. You know, the mundane oblivion we’re all destined for, the kind that’s coming for us on the sure horizon.
I roll my eyes at the hoarding doomsday preppers stockpiling their munitions and canned foods in repurposed school buses. But I wonder if they might roll their eyes at me if a documentary crew followed me around, taping my tells—
how I feel for swollen glands at the top of my neck at stoplights as some might glance at a text…
how I time my pulse sometimes when I think my blood pressure is up and a stroke must be coming on…
how I swallow hard after a new meal I didn’t make (Was I allergic to something? Did it expire?)…
how I follow self-exam instructions to the laminated letter in the shower every day and think of a friend lost to something that looked like a mosquito bite she didn’t know wasn’t…
how I remember my late father’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma at age 55 and how his doctor and my doctor and another doctor said it wasn’t genetic…wasn’t genetic…wasn’t genetic…
how I dream up all the things I might have but don’t know because I didn’t land in med school—How would I even know if I had multiple sclerosis? I might have the beginnings of it now! I don’t know I don’t. How am I supposed to know?
how I think of all my grandparents’ ages and how they’re completely rocking their eighties and then my mind turns to the ratio of what I’ve lived versus what I might have left, and I wonder that I haven’t done enough, said enough, or been enough yet and that we’re doomed, doomed, doomed if I can’t settle everyone’s checks first?
how I think of writing a note to my kids in case of an accident so that they know what to do in case I’m gone, and then I wonder where on earth I’ll put it because the house is always such a blasted mess—and why is the house always such a mess?—and is it making us sick over the long haul?—We have to get rid of the carpet.
It turns out that I’m worse than the end-preppers. I look at them and think, “But the weather’s nice today. And I’ll bet you haven’t read all the David Sedaris your heart can handle yet, have you? And do you know how to make a good crab cake? I’ve always wanted to do that.”
But then they probably look at me and think, “You’re totally screwed. You’re over there worrying about K-cup carcinogens, tomatoes in aluminum cans, and bad feet when you need to grab the Beanie Weenies and run, bunions be damned.”
I’m starting to hear that our message is the same: We don’t have much time.
We’re both right, unfortunately. But in the midst of trying to salvage what we’ve got, to fight the end, and to keep our eyes wide open all the time, we’ve missed the point completely. We’re trying to lengthen something we don’t own.
You would think with all these worries I’d take slightly better care of myself—go on walks, lose the same old pounds, look up sweet potato recipes, eat more kale, sleep more.
Like the jerky hoarders, I live in survival mode. I’m no better.
So, let’s just stop this year, okay? We’ve been running and avoiding running for too long. We’ve got to get over the onions and coconuts—the little hang ups that keep us from figuratively eating that which would otherwise bring us sublime joy.
We’ve got to stop hollering over fire ants and moving those hills into our neighbors’ yards—even on accident. Our paranoia is contagious, and that stress is contagious, and that fear is contagious. These are the things we should truly be afraid of—the pressure that will cook us from the inside out.
My daughter is in eighth grade. People are asking her what her major will be and where she will go to college.
To them my husband and I say, “Do not pollute our lakes and rivers.”
She is stressed because she is not stressed about that which stresses them. Come on!
Here’s the Price litmus test for our children’s success:
- Do they love learning and know how to do it on their own?
- Do they understand the importance of hard work and intentional rest?
- Do they know to put people, in every instance no matter what, before things?
- Do they have enough love in their pockets to give some away?
To quote my Rowling-loving daughter’s response, “The wand chooses the wizard, Mr. Potter.” And she’s talking about a calling here. She gets it. When you know, you know.
Let’s not be in a hubbub about college acceptance this year. She’s thirteen. She really is just now starting to know what she likes on a sandwich.
Let’s believe the best about this year for a change. Let’s just live for a bit! How about it?
Let’s line our pockets with love instead of fear.
Let’s warm the hearth not because we won’t survive the winter if we don’t but because the flames are pretty.
Let’s write love letters and actually mail them this time.
Let’s fall asleep and let late work be early work because those REM dreams are worth having (the sleep not the band, but to each her own).
Let’s work miracles in the daylight, surprising people with our generosity of spirit.
Let’s remember how far a glass of water and a deep breath go.
Let’s have people over with the laundry on the couch.
And let us feel the echoes of each new joy all year long.