My friend Lara and I were talking about being more fearless, since we are both very worried about what might happen. And I said “We just have to rub the raw chicken on the kitchen counter! And trust that when we clean it up, we’ll get it all. And if we don’t, what’s the worst that can happen?”
This was met with silence. I know, because I have been friends with her for almost 20 years, that she was resisting the urge to curl into a fetal position at just the thought of raw chicken on the kitchen counter. That’s her THING. And even though I know that she knew that I wanted her to laugh and say “That’s right!” she couldn’t. Could not.
What she said was “Well, you might die.”
Which made me immediately obsess over the state of my kitchen counters.
In my defense, I come by this genetically. The women in my family go from zero to end of the world in five easy steps: “Where are the dinner rolls? We forgot the dinner rolls! No one set the timer!! They almost caught on fire!!! WE ALMOST BURNED TO DEATH ON CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
We call it tree climbing. Like monkeys, who climb to the top of their trees and screech (or do worse) when agitated.
When I was pregnant with my son, I had contractions at 26 weeks, three days before Christmas. I called my mom on the way to the hospital. Two minutes after hanging up with her, both my sisters-in-law and my cousin called to see if I was ok. By the time my dad called, I answered the phone and said “I’m sure I’m fine. Everybody needs to relax.”
My dad said “Relax? Are you kidding me? Your mother is so far up her tree, she has a STAR on her head!”
Yes, that’s how we roll. You remember Swine Flu? I just knew that if I didn’t get my kids vaccinated, I was inviting death and destruction into my home. I checked the CDC website daily for an update on the spread of the flu and the availability of the vaccine. I called the people at the county vaccination clinic so often that they knew me by name. Shea will tell you he was out of work at the time, but that’s not true. It was his job to GET THOSE KIDS VACCINATED. I didn’t just climb the tree, I built a tree house and strung lights.
In the words of Truvy Jones, I now know that I was suffering from a case of postpartum anxiety. Nevertheless.
I want to argue that tree climbers make life easier, because we see things coming and we get out in front of them, but it’s not true. The truth is we invent stuff to see at the top of our trees because we’re so shocked by the fact that when we get to the top, there’s nothing there.
Like the Christmas rolls. I am sure somewhere in history a family has burned to death on Christmas day from an oven fire, but probably not since ovens were made of adobe. And don’t get me started on what I found when I looked up the facts from the swine flu pandemic in 2009. More dangerous to drive a dang car down the street.
So listen up anxiety sisters and fellow tree climbers: cut down the blessed tree. Don’t bark at shadows. Don’t kill your chickens before they’re hatched. Or whatever other messed up metaphor you want to use for maybe being the biggest source of your own stress and anxiety.
Oh yeah—mom laying on the beach on a perfectly beautiful day when the sun is shining and the kids are playing, and instead of relaxing, you find something to worry about? I’m talking to YOU.
What if, instead of the creepy dark belief that evil is lurking around every corner, the truth is that real life is mostly less stressful than most of us make it out to be? I’m not saying there are not horrible times in life, but what if we make it worse by constantly imagining the worst?
In my life, tree climbing is both chemical and emotional. Nature and nurture, baby. So I medicate and meditate: Do not be the source of your own stress. Do not be the source of your own stress.
There’s no shame in being more peaceful.
And no one gets any awards for being out in front of nothing. Just saying.