Sometimes I play a game in which I name an object and then try to associate a worry with it, just to see if I can stump myself.
"Venetian blinds," I say.
"Peeping Tom!" I answer without having inhaled.
"Tomatoes," I try. "Salmonella poisoning!"
Another way to play is to see how many worries I can associate with each object. For example, I could add choking on a sandwich to the tomato category. Even Saturday morning cartoons trigger angst about radiation from the TV. I simply cannot draw a blank in the association game; there is no end to all that could go wrong. So you can imagine the degree to which setting out to write a worry blog aroused in me a sense of danger. Among other things, dwelling on all that could go wrong might have ended up making me worry more.
Yet, I am not without my optimistic stripe. I was able to envision a scenario in which spilling my anxieties onto the page would result in a transfusion for my mind, ridding me of the very fears I planned to write about, thus allowing mental space for imaginings of, say, joyful days in the nursing home sometime in the distant future.
Ah, the nursing home. I'm still trying to decide whether the company of a roommate--if there's a choice--will be worth the risk of being around someone who might, for example, deposit fingernail clippings on the night table between our beds. My three twenty-something daughters already know that if I do land in a shared room, they should claim for me the bed by the window. And, in case I can't speak for myself, I have asked them repeatedly to arrange for the window to be open whenever possible, though not when someone outside is operating a leaf blower.
Speaking of my daughters, I--of the association game described above--was reminded of another problem with airing my worries publicly. Although presently there were no marriages for my girls on the horizon, let's say they were to get married some day. What if my new in-laws-to-be happened upon my blog? Would they think I was a screwball? (Really, Future In-Laws, I'm not as dotty as I may seem here.)
The same problem could arise, I realized, if I were to meet Mr. Right, or for that matter, Mr. Wrong. (I spent a very enjoyable four years with a Mr. Wrong, so I'm not at all opposed to getting another one.) If such a Mister were to read my ruminations on loathsome scenarios, I pictured it putting the kibosh on our relationship just as it was getting started or even before.
Thinking about my future in-laws made me wonder how we we'll divide visits with our children. And grandchildren! Will their entering the picture lead to competitive Thanksgivings? I'm divorced and let's say my theoretical future son-in-law's parents are divorced. Then what? Will we have to divide up the time four ways? Or, yikes! eight ways if all my sons-in-laws' parents are divorced?
Finally, it occurred to me that I should check out other worry blogs. The only good that would come of reading them, however, was if they were inferior to what I was able to write. Otherwise, I knew I would feel deflated. Here's a parallel example: In an intriguing collection of women's true sex stories, Behind the Bedroom Door, I recently read an essay, "The Best Sex I Never Had" by Hope Edelman, which was much better than what I've written on that very same topic of high school "sex."
I lamented to my friend and mentor, Phillip Lopate, that Edelman's superiority made me want to give up producing discourse on the page. He responded, "I'm not as good a writer as Samuel Johnson, but I persist and so should you."
And so, I gave my worry blog a go. Confessions of a Worrywart, check it out.
Epilogue: Within weeks of starting my Worrywart blog, I began blogging for Huffington Post where an editor from an exciting new Website, Home Goes Strong, found me. For my new semi-weekly gig with them, I have now written 4 articles, Should I Buy Into Feng Shui?, My Mom's Do-It-Yourself Decorating Tips, Packing List and Other Tips Before Trips and A Moving Experience . . . With a Personal Organizer.
Follow Susan Orlins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/susanorlins