Maurice’s Review: When I’m tossing and turning at 2 am, and I’ve raked all the coals in Health, Wealth and Relationships, I’ll remember I am not alone. I have a tribe.
WAKE radio, 107.8 FM, for the fitful hours you should be sleeping. It’s 2 am, welcome to The Anxiety Hour. Please join us for a round of staring at a dark ceiling, fretting over that lump—it could be something, wondering where you went wrong, or suspecting that Angela from Accounting hates you. Now, take many shallow breaths, fidget a bit and immerse yourself in the hours-long process of a bug-eyed examination of your life, the mistakes you’ve made and the thing that might kill you. Sweating is optional.
Sound familiar? Do you tune in to the Anxiety Hour from time to time? Welcome, you are not alone, your tribe is here for you. I know many meditation practices, relaxation exercises and available drugs for counteracting the stranglehold of The Anxiety Hour; and none of them work at 2 am because it’s fucking 2 am! That’s the first thing you think. It’s 2 am. You’ve got that big meeting, court date, job interview, colonoscopy tomorrow and you need your sleep. And you will need to be at the top of your game. You lie in bed and stare at the clock and each minute that passes causes disturbance at the most visceral level. Not being asleep, for no good reason (i.e. baby crying, feeling sick, finishing that really good novel), is what gives The Anxiety Hour its power. It will sink its talons deep into your psyche and keep you fussing until your alarm goes off at 6 am. And you know this.
Worry. Everyone worries over one thing or another. After exhaustive (ok, exhausting) research, I have organized the mid-night worries of the general population (at least, those I asked). Nagging worries fall into these three categories: Health, Wealth and Relationships, though some nagging worries are surprisingly trivial. Keep in mind, one can have a go at juggling all of these at once, and often succeed in doing so at 2 am. Health worries cover your upcoming physical, your joint pain, that mysterious lump, nagging symptoms and your mental stability. These worries may lead into the realm of Wealth. Losing/lost job, fear of failure, how to get a raise, better position, nicer wardrobe, heftier bank statement. Both health and wealth can conjoin with Relationships, be it family or friends or boss or local law enforcement authorities. These worries are trickier as they involve other people, whom you have no control over. You’d like to think you do (even if it concerns your own kid) but you don’t. This always makes it more challenging.
Categories tend to shift with age and life circumstances. You ache for those care-free days before you had those children, that job, a nagging cough, the major fuck-up. Please don’t think you are alone in this endeavor. Millions of us are fretting, in many time-zones, over similar issues and with equal ardor. As Frida Kahlo said, “I’d love to drown my sorrows, but the little bastards have learned to swim.” We all know what’s swimming around during the Anxiety Hour.
I tend to be a champion worrier, the best, award-winning.
I started practicing the craft of nocturnal apprehension in my mid- twenties, when I had a serious illness. Unable to work and forced into a dependence on short-term disability checks, I was thrown into a level of angst I had not experienced before. I was living alone and supporting myself, working in the exciting world of accounting. Loss of income feeds the fear of failure, quickly followed by disquieting images of eviction, starvation and bankruptcy. Or worse, being forced to live with a family member.
I eventually went back to work but it took a full year to recover my good health. When I returned to work, the temp who had replaced me said I looked like the poster child for anorexia. Naturally, we became good friends. My worry shifted from money to health. I did not want to look like the poster child for anorexia. I wanted my health back. In the tender young-adult years, I started a campaign which lasts to this day. The Don’t Overlook Anything, It Might Kill You Project focuses on obsession over every lump, bump, cough and ache. Flesh-eating bacteria could be looming in that red spot on my leg. What are the symptoms for Ebola? The 2 am grappling time and I became quite well acquainted. But soon, we would become attached at the hip in the strongest possible worry bond.
I had a baby. I was not alone by this time. I had a husband along with loving, supportive family and friends. Sometimes baby and I would be awake at the same fussy hour. Convenience. We got along splendidly during these nocturnal feeding/fretting hours. He ate and became happy while I worked on a comprehensive list of all the things that could kill him. Long after the kid was sleeping through the night, I managed to work in a few nights of tossing and turning on my own. Danger never sleeps and as the child grows, so does the list.
Vigilance requires that mother has an encyclopedic knowledge of every fatal thing that may possibly happen to a child. Diseases, accidents, small parts that fall off toys made in China and end up in your child’s throat. Ditches! Once your child is of driving age, you remember your mother’s warning about the deadliness of ditches. If your offspring aren’t answering your many frenzied texts and you don’t know where they are, you assume they could have met an untimely ending….in a ditch. Pedophiles. They can smell a negligent mother from a mile away. Oooh, mom’s busy looking at decorating tips on Pinterest. Time to move in on her unsupervised kid. This is just a mere glimpse into the catalog of horrors in my nightmare collection. Jordan Peele calls me from time to time for movie ideas.
When they are grown, you may still worry about your children. But that worry will fade like a dull toothache once your children move from your house. The anxiety hour worry may shift to the fact that you have “grown” as well. You are moving into what author Spaulding Gray called The Bermuda Triangle of Health. The ripe age of 50 is when things start falling apart and your body is as at risk as a cruise ship passing through that infamous stretch of water. Once there, new possibilities for worry start sprouting like suspicious moles on your back. The list is long, my friends. We could have a convention to compare infirmities. It should be sponsored by AARP. For now, we will have to stick to fretting and fussing at 2 am. None of these things occur to you at say 9:30 the next morning. You go about your business as usual. Save musing over the potentially life-threatening details of your body’s malfunctions until the wee hours, when magnification is certain to keep you sufferingly wide awake.
Lucky for me, my anxiety-hour worries seem to dissipate like a mist on a hot, sunny morning. I forget them when I get up. Or at least they don’t seem so all encompassing when examined under the light of day. Life bombards me with other concerns out there in the purposefully wakeful world.
How do we deal with these sleep-depriving mind activities? I usually give in, surrender to the wakefulness and get up to write it all down or read a book. When the Anxiety Hour is broadcasting, I know I won’t sleep anyway, so I might as well do something constructive. Trying to switch mental directions never works for me. I will toss and turn and sigh and pound at the pillow. This wakes up my bedmate. Better to leave the room and come back so exhausted that I will have a better chance of falling asleep and get at least a couple hours in before the alarm starts screaming. You may have your own strategy and are generous enough to share it with the rest of us bleary-eyed worriers.
Sleep is important for your health. We all face those difficult moments in life when sleep just doesn’t happen for us. I hope those trying times move on down into history for you as they have for me. The occasional encounter with WAKE radio at the 2 am Anxiety Hour is probably pretty common, though I am no sleep expert. Sleep enthusiast, yes. Good thoughts, happy songs, sweet dreams are made of these and who am I to disagree.
May your worries be few,
Guest Editor Maurice is good at gathering folks together. I have met many awesome people through his Meetup group. I trust his writing instincts. I rewrote this story just to impress him. He sometimes worries about donuts!