I used to think I was the only person in the world who worried excessively. I knew people WORRIED – about war and famine and whether there’d be another season of Happy Days and shit – but I didn’t know they sweated the small stuff to the extent that I did. Or rather, to the extent that I do. Like, let’s take this precise moment. It’s Sunday morning, the coffee is hot, my husband is squeegeeing the shower in the nude (double-win) and my children are home, happy and healthy, although Frankie has the shits and Alice just scratched a mozzie bite on her cheek and bled on to her new nurse dress-up. But now – RIGHT NOW – I’m worrying excessively. In no particular order, I’m worried about:
Alice’s scratched mozzie bite, and whether it will leave a scar on her beautiful, flawless, olive-skinned head
Frankie’s arse, and whether it was a one-off episode, or if we’re talking longer-term shittage
Frankie’s library book, which – in a “my-dog-ate-my-homework” episode – was left by an open window in the great storm of summer 2017, and is now sodden, crinkled and colour-run. I’ve dried it in the oven and ironed it flat, but it resolutely REFUSES to go back to its original unblemished state. Which would be FINE, but our library lady is a fascist, who pours bottles of water over library bags to test their water-proofedness. She’s gonna destroy me
My friend who’s gone really quiet, and I need to send her a proper, lengthy catch-up message, but instead I’m pissing about with my blog and Facebook and shit
That thing I said yesterday to that woman
That thing I said the day before to that man
Where Ben’s library book is
Where Frankie’s home-reading book is
Where Ben’s home-reading book is
Where Ben will go to high-school
That meeting I have on Monday
Money (always money)
Whether I’ve wasted a year of my life and ALL OUR MONEY on training to be a Bodyattack fitness instructor
The chocolate pavlova I ate excessive amounts of last night
Today’s birthday party at Inflatable World. Who will I talk to? What if I say a dumb thing?
Not having deadlines
The state of the car
Socks, and their mysterious absence
What to have for tea
Annoying Orange, and Frankie’s obsession with him
The kid from down the road who’s trouble but also troubled, if you know what I mean. I’m worried Ben and his friends aren’t being kind enough to him
My grandparents, and the fact that I don’t visit enough
Un-replied-to messages, texts and emails
The fact that it’s just started raining on my clean fucking windows. Actually that’s less of a worry and more of a gigantic fucking rage-inducer. Those fuckers have just been cleaned! Stop raining on my fucking windows!
By way of comparison, I just asked Paul what he’s worrying about at this precise moment in time (he has clothes on by now, so that’s one concern ticked off). He looked at me blankly.
“Like, right now, what’s on your mind?” I asked him.
Blank look. “Nothing.”
“There must be SOMETHING.” His jaw dropped, as he went into thinking mode.
“I’m a bit worried about what we’re going to have for tea. What’re we gonna have for tea?”
This reminded me of a conversation I’d had a week earlier, with a friend who’d just arrived from England with her fella and two small children. “How was the flight?” I asked, as her face drained of colour, and she told me a harrowing tale of arriving at Manchester Airport to discover that a page in her small son’s passport was ripped.
“I mean, we can let you through at this end,” the jobsworthy airline knobhead said, “but there’s every possibility you’ll be turned back at Perth Airport. This is a LEGAL DOCUMENT, and you’ve defaced a LEGAL DOCUMENT, and you may well be hung upon arrival in the colonies. Have a nice flight!”
My poor friend spent the next 24 hours – TWENTY-FOUR HOURS – panicking and worrying and mithering and generally shitting herself, while simultaneously enduring the hell that is international plane travel with two small children. Turns out she needn’t have worried – the officials at Perth Airport were more worried about a banana peel in someone’s hand luggage than a torn page of a passport, but STILL.
By contrast, I then asked her gentleman partner about his journey. “Yeah it was fine,” he said. “Kids were a bit restless, but nothing to worry about.”
I envy – ENVY – these gentlemen with their simple minds and rumbling bellies. Oh, for a life ruled by mealtimes and, well, mealtimes. How sweet it must be.
Thing is, I’ve always been a worrier. I’m highly strung, anxious and nervy. I’ve always been like this – my fingernails are chewed, the skin around them jagged, red and sore. I went grey at about 25 – partly genetics, partly self-induced brain-worry.
I have reason to believe – because I’ve been told – that I was a bit of a fucking nightmare as a kid. I remember my mum constantly telling me that I’d worry myself sick, and I think I probably did. I worried about everything – EVERTHING – but my number-one worry was that my parents would die and that I’d be left all alone. I was an only child, you see, and we’d emigrated to Perth when I was quite small, leaving us without any extended family. And then, when I was eight, my dad had a motorbike accident – a knock-on-the-door, you’d-better-get-to-the-hospital-quickly motorbike accident – that left him hospitalised for months, and me with six months of my life that I have absolutely no recollection of. From that point – at least I think this was the point at which I became a nervous fucking wreck – I was a nervous fucking wreck. My mum worked full-time, and came home at 5.30 every night. If she wasn’t home by 5.30 – if she hadn’t pulled into the driveway by the closing credits of Mork & Mindy – I fell to hysterical pieces. That must’ve been fun for my parents, I’m sure.
That worry – that sense of sweating the small shit – has stayed with me through to adulthood. I wake up most days feeling a little bit sick, a nervous knot in my stomach. If the kids wake me up in the night, my brain instantly lights up my worry list, so I can spend a good couple of hours fretting about the water bill before the next kid comes in to tell me that they’ve lost a sock.
I’ve worked on this over the years. I’ve seen hypnotists and therapists and everyone apart from qualified medical practitioners. I’ve tried to learn to “live in the moment”, but that’s really fucking hard when your worry bag is full to overflowing, and you know – you just know – that your unread emails are multiplying in your inbox, and that the senders of said emails are forming a secret Facebook group just to talk about how shit you are at replying to emails.
I realise that I have absolutely nothing to worry about; that there are people in the world with proper, real, legitimate worries, and that I’m insulting them with my bullshit next-mealtime worries. I’m sorry for that. I’ll add it to my worry list.