by Lisa

I haven’t worried about my poor Russian language skills since 1989 or so.  Who was President?  I remember the weather, but not that. It seems like yesterday, the TV news footage of people with hammers and bulldozers knocking down the wall.  The world felt smaller that week.  I wished to be there, with a pick axe or a wrecking ball or completely empty-handed.  I wished to smell Berlin, because I had just learned that the olfactory center of the brain held the most powerful memories.

I haven’t worried about losing my grandparents since 2002 or so.  Who could have stopped it? It seems like another lifetime, the easy way I could walk through the back door and know where to find the Oreos in the kitchen and the Hershey bars in PaPa’s room.  The world felt airless when PaPa stopped breathing.  I thought I’d die if there was no more Gram to hug me when I got home, when I stopped in every night on my walk  from the bus station to The Old House.  I think of her when I pass a house where someone’s frying chicken.

I haven’t worried about losing my husband since 2012 or so.  Who would have believed that I’d choose to get lost, myself? It seemed like I was saving us from the slowest, saddest death.  The world grew huge when I signed a lease on a little house where no one would throw things at me in front of my small person or call me ugly names to my first babies.  Until then, I fought to stop the drinking, the smoking, the many dangerous drives home from parties that I just knew would steal my children’s father from them before they were grown.  I think of that battle, the fight that was so exhausting and useless, when I hear him telling me I gave up too soon. I gave up just in time to keep the most important person from learning how to be treated.

Someone, maybe the first therapist I ever told about my lifetime of worry, suggested taking a situation to its worst possible outcome and finding a workable solution.  Then, when something between Worst and Nothing actually happened, I’d feel prepared and confident. No more worry. No more sleepless hours in the dark, listening for the bad guy who wouldn’t show up for years.

Okay.  I get that.  Could she have known that I’d been preparing for nuclear holocaust since I was eight? The worst case scenario and I were old friends.  I had been hoarding packets of cocoa mix and instant soup since I learned to start a fire to boil water in the back yard. I ate cooked dandelion roots and made acrid flour from acorns to accustom my palate to wild flavors. I practiced mediation to keep myself sane if everyone I loved died in the goddamned blast. The act of preparing for the worst case was the only thing that had kept me from going batty between eight and old-enough-to-find-a-therapist.

Lately, I don’t dedicate much time to the practice of mentally preparing for the sky to fall. The wall fell, and took care of that situation.  North Korea has something cooking, but I can’t change that.  I still don’t sleep much, but I don’t worry much, either.  Preparation for a Worst Case Scenario takes real energy, and I’d rather jump on the trampoline with a certain girl I know who still thinks I’m fun. I worry if she loses her bounce, but I’m The Mommy.  I can usually bring it back with a good hug or a Hershey bar.

Just in case, I keep a bag packed with a change of clothes and a couple of sleeping bags and a tent and matches.

Sometimes, the house burns down, even though the extinguisher’s in your hands.


The guy with the axe is a metaphor for my therapist.