Worry creeps in, unseen, and suddenly its there, a spider on the wall. I can see it even with the bedroom dark, a black, motionless blob.
It keeps me awake, inspiring irrational thinking.
I worry in abstraction: the future, unknowns, illusions, stability, failures, guilt.
I worry in specifics: Will the other kids tease Claire in school? She's such a Hermionie Granger. And she has my skinny, skinny legs. Does Eliza have an addictive personality? She still needs her nuk to settle down when her emotions get tangled and she careens into a tantrum. What will she need as an adult? Will Ruthie have anger management problems? Loudly yelling, round face reddening, she INDICATES that she's upset. We'll all have to learn duck and roll maneuvers when she learns to throw stuff.
When dawn touches the walls, the spider scuttles into the shadows – hidden, but not forgotten.
Other nights, those long legs pry into my mind and spin thin, see-through dreams. I dream that I forget Claire's birthday. I dream about the wind lifting Eliza off the ground, out of my reach. I dream that Ruthie grows fangs. I dream about strangers and threats and death.
My mother worried over her young brood, too. Okay, she still worries [right, Mom?].
She tells me about a nightmare that haunted her as a young parent. It made me laugh before I had kids, but I get it now. The worry.
Apparently, I had a bit of a sassy streak as a young child [this is not something I remember]. In her dream, I wore a black leather jacket over my four-year-old frame, displaying cigarettes wedged between each finger. I imagine her waking up in a sweat, compelled to peek into my bedroom to verify that I was sleeping rather than roaming the ally behind our house. [Though that might not have been so off the wall – I was a sleepwalker with a history of at least one housebreak, walking down 88th street with my stuffed dog tucked under my arm.]
As it turned out, I never smoked a cigarette in my life. [As a high school runner, it never made sense to me to inhale something that might inhibit my breathing.] Luck or providence protected me from many of the peer pressures that plague teens. [Read: I was a square]. [Okay, I still am.]
So that particular worry never manifested into reality. I turned out just fine [for the most part, right?].
Many of our worries burn holes in our minds unnecessarily. So why do we worry? Why do we make room for spiders on our walls? Why don't we just smash them?
Because there is so much that might happen and a lot that really will.
I can't turn off worry, but I try to simply acknowledge it. Hold it in my hands. Examine its edges, count its eyes and shoo it into the corners. On the periphery of my consciousness, I can watch it set up its web, allowing awareness of fear and danger and threats, but keeping it off the main walls.
Then, I can cover my clean walls with smiles to start my day, reminding me of the love the lies under all worry.