As I was driving to Costco last week, I started to cry just as I pulled onto VFW parkway. I missed my eldest daughter so much my heart physically ached. She’s alone, on a work trip that takes her through Bandar Seri Begawan, Kuala Belait, Miri, Bentulu and a few others cities. If you haven’t heard of those cities, welcome to the club. Not only had I not heard of them, I wasn’t even familiar with one of the countries in which they were located (Brunei.) The other country is Malaysia, and of course I knew that one, but until Annie sketched it all out on a napkin in my kitchen, I didn’t know that Malaysia was partly on the island of Borneo and partly on the peninsula south of Thailand. I also thought Singapore was the capital, and when I said so, she just looked at me, her expression silently asking me how I got past middle school.
But back to the car…I was missing Annie and thinking how she wouldn’t be back until June. Then I thought about Melissa and how she might never come back, not for more than a few days. That got me thinking of my dad, and how much I missed him, and the fact that he isn’t ever coming back. And that made me think of my sister in law, and how she isn’t coming back ever either. By the time I got to Costco, black mascara tears were flowing down my face to my chin and were just about filling the empty drink holders.
Crying in the car is cathartic, but if your destination is a retail establishment, you may be in real trouble. By the time I pushed my overstuffed cart out of Costco and out through those big double doors, my heart was $400 lighter. Of course I saved us a bundle on XL print cartridges, multiple pairs of reading glasses and a gargantuan bag of Craisins. There is nothing like a little retail therapy. By the time I maneuvered everything in the car, I was thinking, “Annie who?” I happily started devouring my swirled frozen yogurt before it melted into soup. At $1.25, it’s the best deal in New England and I just can’t seem to pass it up. (Until now. I just went online to confirm the price of the yogurt, and the nutritional information popped up. Done with those. See below.)
Back at home, I stopped to think for a moment. Sure, I was missing Annie, but something was different- I was not worried about her. How did I get to this new place, where I could feel, yet not stress? Up in my office, I looked back to a post I wrote only seven months ago, when Annie was travelling to Kazakhstan:
“I have Annie’s itinerary printed on purple paper on my desk in my office. I track her flights, Google her hotels and research things to do in the cities she travels to… I have an app on my iPhone to track the weather forecast for her next three cities. A few times daily, I check for updates on her blog… I check daily to see if she has posted anything new on Facebook. These rituals ease the anxiety.” (K is for Kazakhstan)
This person seems nuts to me now. I still have Annie’s itinerary, but it is pinned to the bulletin board in the kitchen. I consult it only to find out when she is moving on to the next location. I do not track her flights obsessively. I do not have the weather for Borneo on my iPhone. I check her blog only when I receive a notification that there is a new entry. I do not wake in the middle of the night these days, thinking that someone might have drugged her and stolen a kidney. I sleep at night (ok, most nights). I do not worry any more, at least not like I used to.
It was a little weird that I had this post mostly written when I went to services Saturday morning and the rabbi’s sermon was about worry, how many of us struggle not to cross the line which separates the normal, helpful worry, from the obsessive, neurotic worry. The rabbi suggested that if we can channel the energy that we spend worrying into being productive, perhaps we won’t cross that line.
I think he may be on to something. I looked back at what has changed in my own life since November; the changes were not insignificant. I said goodbye to my law practice, focused on my writing, joined the team of an online magazine (betterafter50.com) and made a wonderful friend in the process. I don’t seem to have time to worry, so for at least at this time and in this place, I have let it go. Am I busier than ever? Perhaps not, but busier doing more things I love, spending time and energy on activities that are creative and different. Maybe devoting time and energy to something you really love can actually lift you above the worry, at least temporarily. Or maybe I’m just getting used to the travel. In any case, I hope it lasts.
At the service, the rabbi told the story of Franz Kafka, who encountered a little girl crying in a park because she had lost her doll. Unable to find the doll, Kafka arranged to meet the girl in the park the next day, giving her a letter he had composed from the doll to the little girl telling of the doll’s adventures abroad. They met often after that, and at each meeting Kafka presented the little girl with a letter describing the doll’s new adventure in a foreign land. When Kafka knew the meetings had to come to an end, Kafka presented the little girl with a replacement doll, but it of course looked different from the original doll. When the little girl exclaimed that this doll was not her doll, Kafka explained that it was her doll, but the experience of the doll’s travels had changed her so she no longer looked the same.
I missed the moral of the story completely (i.e., what this all has to do with worry) because I stopped listening. I was busy trying not to cry, thinking about my own baby, coming back to me from each of her adventures wiser, braver, a whole lot more worldly. I wonder each day how she is changing, and I can’t wait to see who she is each time she returns home. That is why I miss her so much. It’s nice to be beyond the worry, at least for a little while.
Oh, and by the way, that non fat frozen yogurt you pick up as a treat on the way out of Costco: Serving Size: 1 order, Calories: 390, Fat: 0g, Carbs: 82g, Protein: 16g http://www.myfitnesspal.com/nutrition-facts-calories/costco-food-court