What, me worry?


What are you afraid of?

I made the mistake of asking this question to a number of folks over the past week while wondering about people’s fears and worries and the most disturbing response came from my youngest who replied, “A ghost who sews my mouth shut so I can’t scream.” Wow.

Fears grow from the primitive intangibles of our youth and often manifest themselves in our grown-up bodies as worry. Otherwise known as fear without the enthusiasm.

Our childhood frights are likely well-seared into our collective memories and some fears follow us right into adulthood while others wander away on their own, dissipating simply by attrition. Any fear of heights I used to have was quickly overcome by the sheer pragmatic necessity of scaling a two-storey scaffolding for exterior home maintenance and my irrational childhood fear of bridges has been adeptly dealt with ultimately by ignoring it. Practicality, as well as denial, has its benefits.

While I no longer sweat too much about poltergeists, demonic possession, and all manner of things that go bump in the night, like most parents, I fret about the challenges and future of my children in what, like every other era, we’re convinced is a more challenging period in time than ever before.

The fears most people reported experiencing on any regular basis in my limited informal poll are pretty pedestrian and what you might expect... spiders, confined spaces, mice, illness. “Dying a slow painful death,” was the answer given by my eldest. “But spiders are still on the list.”

Fear, like pain, is a necessary part of self-preservation. It’s what keeps us from sticking a knife in the toaster to dislodge the stuck bagel or prevents us from eating the chicken wings that were inadvertently left unrefrigerated. Okay, maybe not my husband, but I, personally, wouldn’t eat them.

Of course fears and worries change as we age and our life situation evolves, typically focusing less on ourselves and more on our loved ones. But learning to embrace fear, live with it, and tempering the pervasive worrying is not only essential for basic peace of mind, it’s also good for our physical health.

Many years ago, I worked in a print shop with a guy named Ron who, though a little rough around the edges, had a decidedly Zen approach to life. Whenever I would start hand-wringing about some inconsequential situation, he’d invariably tell me, “We don’t worry about s**t like that, Carmen.”

Admittedly primitive, but effective. And of all the life advice I’ve ever received, this is probably one of the most useful.

If I catch my kids worrying about something that’s disproportionate to the amount of stress it’s causing them, I usually ask them, “What would Ron say?”

There’s nothing like a smile of self-realization to put fears and worries into proper perspective.

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