What! Me Worry? (Parting Thoughts)

By Kreyche, Gerald F. | USA TODAY, May 2003 | Go to article overview

What! Me Worry? (Parting Thoughts)


Kreyche, Gerald F., USA TODAY


SONGS, especially popular ones, often reflect the human condition. An example is songs dealing with love, both about winning and losing it. The same can be said about worries. Not long ago, everyone was singing, "Don't Worry, Be Happy." It was a hit because it offered good advice about one's inner life. Then there was the old tune, "On the Sunny Side of the Street," advising people to "leave your worries on the doorstep." Yet other ballads deny that we can shuck our worries so easily. One was "It Takes a Worried Man to Sing a Worried Song"; another, "Worry, Worry, Worry, Woe is Me."

We all know some people we would call "worry warts," meaning that one worry or another, big or small, always is in the forefront of their corisciousness. They literally dwell on worry. Yet, if we examine our own lives, I think that we will find ourselves very close to that state of affairs. Some Asian cultures use worry beads, fingering them over and over. Some Catholics use the Rosary to that effect. One is reminded of Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg fondling two steel ball bearings while he was on the witness stand in the movie, "The Caine Mutiny." Worry seems to be a constant in life.

Worries run from trepidation, to being concerned about, to be fearful of, to fret over, and, in some cases, to a state of anxiety that can become paranoic. Worry easily becomes a nagging condition in which we feel uneasy about something that is "bugging us." Worries become exaggerated and particularly exasperating during the dark of night, often causing sleeplessness. With the light of dawn, we realize we have made a mountain out of a molehill--although not always! Small wonder that the Germanic root for worry is "to strangle."

It has been claimed that each of us has a worry spot in the brain and, since nature abhors a vacuum, when one worry is taken care of, another rushes in to take its place. Some bosses claim that they leave their worries at the office, and one must admit that, if this is true (a big if, one might add), it is a marvelous control of the human psyche. In this vein, one recalls Mad magazine with the picture of Alfred E. Newman proclaiming, "What! Me worry?" Sometimes one may not worry, but it is out of sheer ignorance. Those who pooh-pooh the environmentalists may be such. However, perhaps it is one case where ignorance is bliss!

Any number of persons claim they can dismiss worries, declaring that "I'll worry about that when the time comes," but they are not so easily pushed aside, whether of the present or future. AARP's Modern Maturity recently published an article that began with the story of a Jewish mother-in-law writing her son's wife, advising, "Start worrying. Details to follow." Even though perhaps 70% of the objects of worries never materialize, one can't dismiss the reality of the other 30%. All too often, worries prove to be grounded. A major problem with worrying is that, like procrastination, it saps our energy.

Worries are present at practically every stage and station in life, but each has its own character. Latchkey children often feel insecure (i.e., worry) as to when Mommy will be home. Adolescents worry about their attractiveness to the other sex and whether they can succeed in school. Those about to graduate are concerned with getting a decent job and if they can "make it on their own. …

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