• DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    DRINK TO THE LASSES: Notes from a Woman's College Womb
    by Mary Beth Ellis
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    Twentysomething Essays by Twentysomething Writers
    Random House Trade Paperbacks
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Friday
Apr052019

On Worry 

I cannot abide wasted pixels. I am part of a recent short answer, multi-author article on Redleg Nation here,and, as befits a professional sportswriter, wrote about everything but baseball. The editor asked for 150 words when he posed the question: “How Worried (about the terrible, terrible Reds) Should We Be?” I sent the best shortest short-answer he would ever see and he responded that I might want to tack an additional 149. Then I went the other direction. Here’s what hit the e-cutting room e-floor. 

 

As a person who’s spent significant chunks of time in and out of therapy and pharmacies, I am perhaps more qualified than most non-literary writers to respond on the topic of worry. In my MFA program you practically couldn’t be admitted without proof of prescription and two doctor’s notes affirming your neuroticism.

So here’s some Schedule IV controlled substances talking: When you’re outscored by the city’s soccer team, you’d think you should worry. When my favorite moment from the season thus far is Tucker Barnhart getting dragged across the infield by a tenuous grasp on Yasiel Puig’s ankle, you’d think you should worry. When the pitching buckles a few miles down the road from where the offense lays, you’d think you should worry.

Look, I get it. When we ask why we want our favored sports team to win, then ask why that reason exists, then ask why that reason exists, then ask why that reason exists, here’s what you pretty much always arrive at: This sports team represents a sliver of my identity, and when it wins, I feel happy. Therefore, we prefer our teams to win. Life is simply more fun when this happens. There’s a reason why Seattle and its utter lack of a World Series trophy has such a horrific suicide rate.

So on Sunday, as I watched a man wearing a Pirates uniform double off the Reds’ Hernandez to push non-Reds across the plate on Sunday, I flinched, as though it were a physical blow. I felt sad. This was not fun. I did not feel happy. But was I worried, the way worry happens when daily tasks are a distant echo of the gnawing, nauseating reality inside?

I know this because I lived it non-stop before I was diagnosed with the full-blown obsessive-compulsive disorder that had become the driver, planner, and negotiator of my brain when I was 14. Sitting on a porch swing simply because sitting on a porch swing while terrified is a change of scenery from sitting at the kitchen table while terrified: That’s worried.

Or- Pressing your head against the cold concrete wall of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum because you’re still feeling barfy and not at all bloated and you cannot, cannot, cannot be pregnant, four months into the marriage, with five jobs between you and your husband and the bathroom still unpacked: That’s worried.

So, as I saw the scoreboard numbers at the bottom of the screen flip from a 5-3 Reds lead to a 7-5 Pirates lead, I felt eye-rolly, frustrated, and suddenly more apt to change the channel to the FC game, but not worried.

Because I had just glanced up at outdoor thermometer to see a temperature above 70. Because for the first time in six months I had attended yoga class without pants over my yoga costume. Someday, yes, I will live where you don’t need pants for your pants. But if I’m not there yet, I’m a bit wistful. I’m not worried.

Baseball is not constructed for worry. Worry is darting, anxious motion which won’t keep still. Worry churns. Worry is acidic, constant noise. Worry is cold and rain, not sun and fresh grass. Baseball is none of these things.

Because if you’re worried about a baseball team, you’re doing both baseball and worry wrong.

Friday
Mar292019

Were You Really There?

Friday
Mar152019

Upon the Firing

Newly posted on Redleg Nation: "I can barely manage myself, and this very day stopped at an ATM and then panicked because it had not dispensed my cash despite the demonstrable fact that $20.00 was, in fact, in my hand."

Friday
Mar012019

Preparing to Strugglebus

All aboard: :I was committed to seeing what might come out of the laptop speakers next, perhaps background explosions and SWAT team announcements." 

Wednesday
Feb272019

Moral of the Story

Concerns have been raised that gadgets which are now our lifesblood provide far too much information to outside entities. It does freak me out, in a way; I really don't want Google knowing, down to the bathroom stall, which forsaken strip mall I'm currently occupying and which battered tee shirt of which indeterminate age I'm wearing. But if that same technology can get me out of the strip mall and to the nearest purveyor of vodka, I welcome the hovering of the Great Internet Eye.

It's an odd position for an English major to take. Those of us bred and fed on 1984 ought to abhor such surveillance, particularly when we also take up a poli sci major, but some of us also trend to the absentminded, and often Big Brother can serve as a kindly de-escalator of everyday crises. If I'm in that bathroom stall, chances are I'm not going to be able to figure my way out of it, let alone to the liquor store unaided.

This means the most-searched question on my laptop is the current location of my phone. Josh The Pilot is the most-often received number on my phone, not because he is my husband, but because I'm wandering past him on a minute-by-minute basis, asking him to call it for location purposes. I lose my phone in my couch, in my purse, in a different part of my purse, directly next to me on the desk, and in my hand ("Where's my phone?", in addition to being a frequent refrain, has more than once been answered with "In your hand.")

So the locator URL of FindMyIPhone is forever sighing when I log in, because yes, it's me again, and my latest howdy to the cell phone towers of Greater Cincinnati took place last night, when the phone wasn't in my purse, or the other part of my purse, or in a coat pocket, or in the coat pocket from yesterday's coat, or the car, or the garbage can (this is a go-to search location), or charging, or in the couch, or out of the couch. I assumed I'd left it behind at my mother's after dropping off groceries, but as there's nothing 78 year old widows enjoy more at 10 PM than people crawling around their lawn and the doors of their home banging open with zero warning, I double-checked the phone's location.

The ping came back not at my mother's, but at the public library. I had not been in my branch of the library for at least a week. I had, however, been outside of it, within the hour, actually, leaning into the after-hours return door to fling in a book which crashed to the parking lot when I failed to successfully insert it. The phone, I guess, fell out when I opened the car door to fling, because in addition to failing in all other elemental adult activities I can also barely navigate my way around a giant airport lot, let alone close enough to a book return niche to manage a basic civic duty without having to open the driver's side door. And as I opened the driver's side door to retrieve the book, I also said "*#^%," because the situation really was *#^%, but this meant I didn't hear the phone drop onto the blacktop.

So props to the app developer, because it not only indicated that my phone was at the library, but precisely in which part of the parking lot it was sitting, awaiting destruction from the next passing car. My reaction to this intelligence was to sigh and put the remainder of my evening snack of Lincoln Logs in the fridge for later consumption, because really, this was Blonde Life as usual, and certainly a more pleasant retrieval option than the underside of a train platform, which of course I have also undertaken. This, then, was no emergency.

The phone was miraculously untouched, just a bit cold and angry, and when I reported the situation to Carah The BFFE, I suggested that this was yet another confirmation of my decision to not burden no child with me as a mother

"Children don't usually fall out of cars while you're returning library books," she pointed out.

Well, I mean-- not her children, in her car. Mine would probably find a way, and in the process I'd likely try to cram them into the book return slot while I was at it.

MORAL OF THE STORY: do not become an English major.