Thursday, 26 September 2013

Something to Worry About...

Hello Friends.

I buy into a lot of sentimental garbage. I love a photo album, or a Christmas Letter, or a well-structured commercial about dairy (like when the whole family sits down to a bowl of cheese for dinner). But the one concept I've never cottoned to is the nostalgic principle that there was once a simpler time. Approaching this idea from an historical perspective is not only grating, it's just wrong. People who romanticize the 50's and 60's as the time to be alive seem to forget that it wasn't so great for black people or women or gays or immigrants or the mentally ill or the differently-abled or veterans. For everyone else, though, so fun! But the point I can't argue as strongly is when people say, "I wish I was (whatever age) again. That was a much simpler/easier/better time for me." That position is indefensible, because a person will believe what they want about his own past and experiences, but when people say something like that to me, I'm always tempted to wrinkle my nose and ask, "Was it so great, though?"

If you experienced a really dramatic reversal of fortune in your life, I guess you'd be right to look back and say, "Life was better before I lost all that money in the stock market/married that sociopath/lost my leg to gangrene." But unless you can point to specific circumstances that forever altered the course of your life for the worse, to qualify one time as better than another is silly. You know how I know it's silly? Because when I snuggle in with my memories and a mug of warm cheese to look back on my own life, there are highs and lows to be sure, but I know I had a constant stream of worry with me every day for as long as I can remember.

Dream: Stop worrying so much.

Goal: Unachievable. I think it's a natural state, one of constant vigilant worry, because it propels us forward. People with no worries might be the envy of the rest of us, but they also have no incentive to grow and change. Plus, have you ever met one those, "No worries! It's all good! I'm too blessed to be stressed" people? They are the worst! First of all, they're probably lying, which is obnoxious, and the false front they present of being completely laid back also excuses them from any rational social behaviour. These are the people who ignore deadlines, show up late, never plan, and generally shirk responsibility because, "Lighten up, man! After all, it's a beautiful day! Don't sweat it." Goddamn you, Cool Coolerson, I'm sweating it like a heated butthole over here! If you work (or, god forbid, live) with one of these people, you know it is their lackadaisical attitude that keeps the rest of us scrambling to finish the job, put out the fires, and plan for contingencies. So it is not the concept of worrying itself that I want to avoid, but maybe I could change the script as it pertains to what I worry about.

Plan: List all the things I am currently worrying about in the hopes that seeing them in black and white (or in the case of this blog, black and... what, ugly pale pink?) I will realize which are serious worries and which are frivolous, and so be able to sleep better at night. Here's what currently worries me:

  • I forget to turn off the stove and leave the burner on high heat when I go to work. Our apartment burns down in our absence.
  • I forget to turn off the stove and leave the burner on low heat when I go to bed. Nothing burns down, but the apartment slowly fills with gas somehow. Jon lights a morning cigarette and blows us up.
  • I have to turn the TV up so loud when I'm watching a DVD that it's ridiculous. I'm concerned that this is not a technical problem but that, in fact, I'm slowly going deaf. I also worry that I'll forget the TV is turned up this loud, switch from DVD to regular TV, and then IT'LL BE THIS LOUD AND THE NEIGHBORS WILL POUND ON THE WALL AND COME OVER AND SHOOT ME DEAD WITH A GUN!
  • My occasional lower back pain is not the result of tight belts and slouchy posture, but some kind of chronic, life-threatening illness. Back AIDS.
  • Some spying pervert will take a picture of me on the sly with his phone when I'm getting changed in the locker room after a swim. Because I'm unaware the picture is being taken, I won't have time to suck my stomach in and my genitals will be all George Constanza "I was in the pool!" and the picture will be widely circulated as some kind of fail meme.
  • My food is giving me cancer.
  • My cell phone is giving me cancer.
  • I am accused of a crime I didn't commit and buckle after only 45 minutes of police interrogation and falsely confess so everyone will stop yelling at me. This confession seals my fate and I spend the rest of my days folding sweaters in the prison's version of Banana Republic.
  • An overdue library book, movie rental, or lapsed gym membership is taking money out of my account every month without my knowledge. Soon I am $300 000 in debt.
  • I sit next to a casting director on a plane. Throughout the flight, I make several witty observations about air travel that are refreshing and not at all hacky. He is so impressed that he offers me a small but substantial part as the wisecracking best friend in a Judd Apatow vehicle. I am thrilled and show up enthusiastically every day of shooting, riffing on bits with Jonah Hill, gently ribbing Franco, earning that throaty Seth Rogen laugh. The film is released and deemed far and away the worst in the Apatow canon all because of me. "The Magic Is Gone... James to Blame!" screams Variety. My film career is over before it starts, and I've taken a comedy franchise down with me.
  • Living paycheque to paycheque catches up and Doc loses his job and suddenly we're old and poor and living in his Ford Focus which we have to move all the time because of tickets and we tank all of our job interviews because we've been storing our best clothes in the trunk and they're all dusty and we smell like cigarettes and Wendy's.
  • I become so addicted to online Scrabble and refuse all offers of help so I end up living under a bridge that has WiFi, shuffling tiles obsessively, waiting for turns that can't come fast enough. A triple-word score TAXABLE is all that keeps me from taking my life.

Okay, so my actual worries aren't this ludicrous, but they're pretty close. The thing about worrying is that it does you no actual good when bad circumstances befall you, because the thing you worry about doesn't come to pass. This other random, out-of-left-field situation lands in your lap and suddenly everything else is meaningless. I know enough to be really grateful not to have one of those "perspective-shifting" problems in my own life right now. I have a great life with an amazing partner and great friends and family. I have my health. I have a job. I have to shower and eat before that job lest I be late and lose it, so time to put these worries to rest, at least for now. After all, it's a beautiful day.

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