Anxious About Anxiety

Despite the title of this piece, I am not anxious about anxiety, or anything, actually. I just thought the title a clever one for an essay about worry at things and worrying about things.

In a comic strip from 1992, Calvin told his buddy Hobbes that he prayed for “The strength to change the things I can, the inability to accept what I can’t, and the incapacity to tell the difference.”

A blog reader sent me the link to that cartoon, and when I read it, I couldn’t help laughing out loud. It seems so apt, particularly now when I am trying to puzzle out my water meter situation. Actually, it’s not truly that situation I’m trying to puzzle out, but my response to it. Like so much else I have little control over, I tend to worry at such things, like a dog worrying at a bone.

I figure I have two choices. The first is to learn not to worry at things, though it’s not only a lifelong habit but also an inherited one, and those are hard to break. My dad solved his tendency to worry at things by writing notes to himself, and as long as he had those notes, he could generally let the matter go

His notes were sort of a running joke. My mother told me she found a note he’d written for himself after they were engaged with the date of their nuptials and the message to “Marry Stella.” (He used her real name, of course, not “Stella.”) It appalled her, so she’d asked him, “Do you really think you’d forget to marry me?” He said, “No, but I didn’t want to take a chance.”

Now that I myself write notes to get things out of my head, his note writing isn’t as amusing. But it does show that my worrying at things is honestly come by.

My second option, if I can’t break myself of the habit of worrying at things (and truly, “worrying at” things is a vast improvement over “worrying about” things) is simply to accept that it’s the way I am.

This situation has made me wonder what my old elderliness will be like. (As opposed to my current “young” elderliness.) My father was on anti-anxiety medications, and perhaps it might have been a good thing because although he didn’t seem anxious to me, he did worry at things a lot. This seems to be a characteristic of many old elderly — an inability to accept things they cannot change and the incapacity to distinguish those things from what they might be able to change. (Though with the oldest of the elderly, there is little they can change.) And since they also worry about death and dying, many physicians routinely prescribe anti-anxiety pills whether the person needs it or not.

I hope I am wise enough at that age (and in control enough of my own life) to forego the doctor’s interference with my worrying. As I thought when I found out about my father’s prescription, if a person can’t worry about death and dying at the end of his life, when can he? In fact, shouldn’t he be worrying about it? Or maybe not worrying, but thinking about it in preparation for the end? Apparently, not, according to my father’s doctor. A fretful old person is harder to deal with than one who is sedated, which I do understand. It really is hard dealing with someone who doesn’t comprehend the changes they are going through, can’t comprehend why their life isn’t totally their own, and can’t comprehend why they can’t comprehend.

It seems then, that there might be a third option in regard to my “worrying at” things: Learn to live with a whole lot of incomprehension.

As for the water meter situation: As it stands now, the water company guy insists it isn’t the meter’s fault. My contractor (who knows this house almost as well as I do) thinks the problem is at the meter. So, I wrote a note to myself about the situation in case the matter isn’t resolved, then I’m going to try to forget it and let those two men duke it out at high noon during a showdown at Bertram’s corral.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

2 Responses to “Anxious About Anxiety”

  1. Judy Galyon Says:

    Interesting thoughts! I would let the contractor figure out where the leak is & go from there. Hopefully your water line is not as long as mine. I had to have a new hot water heater put in last month. Will the water company forego the large water bill. When we had the leak, I would go down the hill to the meter & turn off the water & turn it back on when needed. Good luck!

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I have a relatively short water line. Maybe 20 feet. And it was replaced when I bought the house. And there is a chance the water company will work with me on the bill.

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