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The Worry Buffet

This morning, after my alarm went off at half past six, I went back to sleep. Thirty extra minutes, just for me. When I woke up for real, I nudged my husband awake, and we spent the next hour talking about the one thing both of us are very good at: worrying. If worrying was a sport, I think we’d each have a shot at gold in all three events: past, present, and future.

It’s nice to have someone to give your cares to, even if there’s no fixing the issue in a moment. When Richie tells me his concerns, I hear them, encourage him to go granular (i.e., break down the existential dread into bite-size pieces for mortals to chew on), and then reality-check each concern. His concerns are valid because he’s practical: student schedules, friends and family, art, practice. Not that his problems are easy, but he responds well to reality-checking and gratitude. I also like to think I’m good at helping people do both.

Let’s note that I’m bad at doing it for myself. My list of worries is double the length of Richie’s, with some duplicates. I’m worried about owning a home even though I’m in school right now and have no time to house hunt. I’m worried about not seeing my family even though every minute of my schedule is accounted for the next seven months. I’m worried about not writing creatively even though I’m writing academically. I’m worried about not traveling even though, again, I’m in grad school.

To make matters worse, as soon as I’m done listing and Richie jumps into a reality check, I jump out of bed because there’s yet another thing to do on the task list. I’ll make time for Richie’s worry, but I don’t make time for my own. It’s unfair, too, I know, because he likes to take care of me. It’s unfair to me for other reasons. Still, I think the only way to trick my brain into being more collaborative is if I reframe the issue in my head as something that will benefit him.

That’s called a pro-tip. Free of charge.

As I write this, my brain devours each piece of my calendar, phone notifications, and concerns that I am not enough. My brain is a ravenous thing, and there’s plenty for it to feast on. This seems like a good day for Ritalin, but the medication may only serve to feed the beast AND make my heart race. A little cerebral roulette.

There will be a day soon when the grad school brain goes away. However, in its place, there will be some other sort of hungry animal to take its place. Hopefully, by then, I will have gotten better at sharing my worries with the person I promised to share my worries with, even if that means tricking the beast into thinking it has more control than it does.


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