Lots and lots of people fail. Most—the majority—recover, and often credit failure for being a huge help in their lives. But I fear it, terribly—and my stress level has grown wings.
I used to listen to lyrics from Jackson Browne’s The Pretender. I wondered what he meant, about being a happy idiot and struggling for the legal tender. Twenty years later I understand.
I think too much, I worry too much. We know too much, but we don’t know enough to save ourselves…and it is into that gap that I fall, fearing.
We learn that the coral reefs are dying, that we have overfished our oceans, that gill nets strangle sea turtles, that whatever the friggin’ reason, our polar caps are shrinking. We learn that beautiful, intelligent African elephants are probably going to be extinct in, um, a handful of years, because folks still buy ivory. We know that the really really rich are getting richer and everybody else is getting poorer. We know that Americans are drawing battle lines over a woman’s right to her body decisions…and over whether Jesus wants you to love your neighbor or take a more self-righteous approach and force your neighbor into being Christian.
We know that way too many of us are getting way too fat, that physicians despise dealing with insurance, that pharmaceutical more and more are testing their products, and that we are all overmedicated. That pharma and insurance are winning the health war.
We learn that fewer and fewer of the food products in the grocery store are actually healthy for us. That the refrigerated perimeters of the store, which was where you used to find the least processed food, now have more corn syrup than not.
We know that the world economic markets are dicey and that our job market is still borderline, but that our companies are rich, watching us struggle. We learn that it might not get better. I spoke with a small-town policeman a year ago. He told me that his first job every morning was to evict someone from their home. That’s a truly awful job.
We know that we were seriously lied to about weapons of mass destruction, and that a whole bunch of people suffered and died for no reason. We learn that Shock and Awe opened the door to Iran and Iraq being buddies, and that they are with a couple of years of starting the next World War, while their cousin North Korea is racing them for that stupid honor.
We take refuge by watching HBO. We take refuge in country music videos that pretend that we all drive cool old trucks and party in fields, when the truth is that only broke down folk drive those trucks and the vast, huge majority of folks tuning in ain’t nevah partied on meadow grass. We take refuge by spending too much money. We play Words With Friends.
Worst of all, some of us take refuge by becoming chronic worriers. A few years ago, I wasn’t this worry-racked person. Now, I worry so much, too much. Hardly anyone who knows me knows this. People think I’m carefree, courageous, strong, successful. But inwardly, I worry almost constantly that I’ll fail, that I am failing. At life, financially, artistically; fail my family in myriad ways. Fail my education, fail the dreams I have. Hugely fail my destiny. Worry that the clock is ticking faster and faster and that the faster it ticks, the farther behind I get.
I want to be like the 90-year-old who had some drinks and decided to go skydiving. To live life…not be constantly trying to outrace the avalanche of fear-of-failure that threatens to overtake me. Sometimes I wish desperately that I could be a happy idiot, just struggling for the legal tender, getting up the next day and doing it again. But there’s no going back from knowing.
How does one break an addiction to anxiety?
Just for today, I will be kind to myself, ease up on the self-criticism. Just for today, I will look for the good that might happen instead of fearing the bad. Just for today, I will be happy. I will be unafraid.
Just for today.
And then tomorrow, I’ll get up and (thanks, Jackson Browne)…when the morning light comes streaming in, I’ll get up and do it again.
C’mon with me. You do it too, okay?