The Business of Worrying
by Jerry DeNuccio
I am an extravagant worrier. By that I mean not that I worry excessively, but, rather, that I worry about things that lie beyond the boundaries circumscribing what most people worry about. My worries worry worry.
Now, I am not immune to the usual worries. I worry, with varying degrees of intensity, about how people I respect think of me; about someone being offended by misinterpreting something I’ve said or written; or being caught out after a presentation by a question I am unable to answer; or that my aging lawn mower won’t start, the sump pump will fail, a storm-threshed tree will topple, harm may come to those I cherish, or my incompetence at some upcoming DIY task will cause my handyman credentials to be pulled.
But I find nothing particularly worrisome about the nature of these worries. They’re typical, simply the oscillations of fate that defy our preference for predictability. They’re part of the rasp of living that abrades most people, the occasional dissonant notes of apprehensive expectation that disrupt the syncopated beat of human beings. They certainly do not afflict me in the manner of Holden Caufield, whose worries rise to such a rolling boil that they induce both the need to urinate and the inability to follow through. “I don’t go” he tells us. “I’m too worried to go. I don’t want to interrupt my worrying to go.”
Surely Luke has it right when he quotes Jesus: “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life.” Besides, when these run-of-the-mill worries arise, I remember that the science folks claim worry is an inherent trait, a kind of “beware gene” underwritten by evolution: in a world of threats, worriers are warier. Failing that, I look to Stephen King’s assertion that “we always wear out our worries,” or take the Beach Boys solution: stay in my room where I can “lock out all my worries and my fears.”
No, the worries that consume my contemplation stray far afield from the ordinary. They defy the ministrations of stress ball squeezing, are immune to Alfred E. Neuman’s “What, me worry?” and dismiss out of hand Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.” I could easily earn a digital badge for worry were such an award given. In the bazaar of worries, mine patronize the more bizarre stalls.
I worry, for example, about Top chart 40 singers from the late 1950s and early 1960s who ruled those charts and then, with the change in music heralded by the Beatles, disappeared from view. How, I wonder, did performers like the three Bobby’s–Bobby Vinton, Bobby Rydell, and the recently deceased Bobby Vee–experience being passed by and pushed into the dark corner of obscurity? I worry about the hurt and bitterness they must have felt, the doubt about their future. I’m always gladdened to hear that they have continued performing somewhere, enjoying a renaissance of popularity among the nostalgia-drenched Boomer crowd.
I worry about the Hershey company going into the jerky and meat bar business. It seems a profanation of their mission to deliver the neural swashbuckle and cortical jubilee of chocolate, that anodyne for life’s wagging finger and shaking fist.
I worry about corn sweat, a phenomenon in the midwestern areas where corn fields dominate the landscape. Each stalk acts as a straw, siphoning water from the ground and releasing it into the air, contributing to the already humid hug of July and August, mugging us with muggier mugginess and dialing sweat glands to full-throttle production.
I worry about “ghost species,” flora so place-faithful that they are out-evolved by the environment and doomed to extinction. It seems unfair that rootedness, often touted as a life-affirming virtue, should lead instead to demise, but I suppose being alive means being ongoing, unfinished. Perhaps I should take a lesson, considering how much time I spend moored in my study.
I worry about the students of a college Sociology professor who told me, without a trace of flippancy, that Steven Seagal is the greatest actor working in America today; about the fine structure constants of the universe being less fine, more inconstant; about people who insist that Elvis isn’t dead but was abducted by aliens; about millennials who consider Taco Bell’s Triple Double Crunch Wrap akin to gourmet cuisine, a more perfect incarnation of the already perfect Double Crunch Wrap; and about anyone who thinks they can get along without Post-It Notes.
So how to allay my off-the-beaten-path worries? Well, I could anesthetize them with worry beads, but I worry about gaining proficiency in the twirls and twists of the loud handling methods. As a somewhat related alternative, I could count beads on a rosary. My upbringing has given me expertise in its use, but I worry that I may be profaning its sacred purpose, a meditation on the Catholic faith’s Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries–which provokes another worry: the Mysteries are considered truths of faith, not a baffling incomprehensibility. How, I wonder, can a mystery be a truth? Undoubtedly, I am somehow overlooking the evidence of things unseen.
Why these things stitch me with worry escapes my apprehension. Some things just seize the heart and lock themselves in. The emotions can go rogue, setting their own standards of scope and potency, and those standards frequently outflank the protocols of reason. But I have settled on a resolution to my worries. I’ll consider them my business, a kind of moral obligation: for who else is there, really, to worry about these things?