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.

Things to Worry At

In a book I just finished reading, the character often stayed awake at night worrying about all the things in her life that she couldn’t do anything about. As it turns out, the one thing she should have been worrying about, the thing that will change her life forever, is something she could never have imagined. But that’s not what this post is about.

Mostly, her worrying got me to thinking about my worries. Luckily, my worries at the moment are all minor. Even better, “worrying” in my case doesn’t mean causing anxiety; it means to tug and pull at things. Like a dog worrying at a bone, I worry at thoughts — I poke and prod them, pushing them around in my head, looking at them from all angles.

The current bone that I am worrying at is what to plant in the “island” between my two sidewalks. The space lends itself to some sort of formal desert garden, or rather it would if it weren’t for all the shade that area gets. A garden like that would take more studying and preparation (and money!) than I want to deal with right now, though I can always plan such a garden at a later date. My latest thought is to take all the seeds I have, mix them together — cultivated flowers and wild flowers, annuals and perennials, new and expired — and then next summer toss them onto the space, cover them with dirt, water, and see what happens.

The summer after that would be the key to what I ultimately decide. If enough perennials take hold, then the decision would be made for me and I wouldn’t have to do anything. By then, too, the prostrate knotweed that passes for grass around here might have taken over, since it’s almost impossible for me to keep on top of it, and in that case, I wouldn’t have to do anything, either, except give up and let it be.

Ideas for that garden particular area are not all that I am pushing and pulling around in my head. Behind the currently roofless gazebo, in the middle of the reddish pathways, there will be a raised garden, and that, too, is something I worry at. It will be the focal point of my secret garden (because when all the bushes along the fence grow up, that space will be utterly private), and I’m not sure what one plants in a raised garden. It would seem as if tall plants would overpower the area and perhaps make it claustrophobic. And low-lying plants might get lost. I’d originally thought it would be a good place for a vegetable garden, but since I’ve killed a couple of my tomato plants and can’t even manage to grow a zucchini, I’m not sure it’s worth the time and effort to plant vegetables.

None of this matters, of course. It’s not as if the fate of the world lies in the decision of what to plant in my various garden spots. It’s not even as if my own fate lies in the decision. It’s that I like having some idea of what I am going to be doing. More than that, apparently, I also need things to worry at, and with nothing major to worry about, I worry at my gardens.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God