I come from a line of worriers. My mum is a worrier and my nan was a worrier. If worrying had ever been an Olympic sport, my nan would have been a gold medalist for sure. She one worried about men working out on the road and whether they had proper protective clothing for the terrible weather. I mean, some worries I can understand but that one was properly beyond my comprehension.
Worrying to me has always seemed pointless. It doesn’t solve anything or change anything. I have always subscribed to the Sunscreen philosophy:
Don’t worry about the future; or worry, but know that worrying is as
effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that
never crossed your worried mind
the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday
Instead, I plan. Rather than worry something might happen, I’ve instead been one to plan when something does happen. My immediate response to something is to work out what I’m going to do and what I’m going to do if that doesn’t work. I don’t just have a Plan B, I have a Plan C, D, E and F. My way of feeling in control of a situation I have little control over is to make sure that whatever happens, I know how to respond. So why worry?
I suppose I’ve grown to think that maybe people aren’t born to be worriers but rather, become worriers. The two biggest worriers I knew, my mum and nan, were both mums and I suppose I always ascribed the worrying to being a primary caregiver and that worrying that your safety-oblivious toddler might stick their finger in a plug socket turns into worrying that your child will fall off their bike and smash their teeth in which turns into worrying that your teenager will fail their exams and turn to a life of crime. By the point at which your kids finally leave home you’ve had 18 years of worrying practice and the prospect of not having anything to worry about becomes a worry so you create things to worry about.
So how is it that I find myself sat here, child-free, worrying?
I had a lovely weekend being visited by my mum and sister, but at one point over the course of the weekend noticed that my mum’s jeans looked a looser, something I hadn’t noticed when I’d been home recently. Now perhaps it might not be unexpected after my nan died at the end of December, but of course ignoring Occam’s Razor, I’ve been sent down a fear spiral that it’s linked to her cancer. A cancer we never got an all-clear for as such, more a move to what they called ‘survivorship’ and a lack of desire on my mum’s part for them to do any more poking around than they had to while she felt well. Her initial diagnosis was in Summer 2014 and after many months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy she defied probably all expectations to get well again. Of course, those sort of things never really disappear, right? Even if we’d had an all-clear, I’m sure part of all of us would be half waiting for something to rear its head again, the knowledge that against something with an unknown cause we are all King Canute.
What can I do about it? Very little really. Just worry, which is why it’s pointless. If it’s back, it’s back. I can only hope it isn’t. And worry. Being 150 miles from home means I have to trust what I’m told, if I’m told. Despite being worriers, my family aren’t an ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ kind of family, we worry to ourselves and try not to worry others until something is either solved or beyond repair. I thought after her first diagnosis that I’d found a new normal, where the fear doesn’t really go away but it gets pushed back behind either practicalities or later on, a new normal. This is new territory. There’s no medical diagnosis, no reality, just worry and bubblegum chewing.