When I was a little girl, I never felt anxious. Sometimes I got excited. Sometimes I got sad. Lots of times I got angry. Sometimes I even got scared. My feeling came and went like the wind blowing the lace curtains in the living room. I was never anxious.
I never got anxious about new things coming: The first day of school, substitute teacher, or the last day of school. I never worried about getting lost or getting home. Every new thing was an adventure. Even when I did get lost, like when everyone left me to wander in the Museum of Science and Industry, or when I got on the wrong bus, and went over a big girl’s house who I knew from church and said she knew my mom and where I lived and would get me home. I never even worried about getting lost at the beach and putting my head underwater and hearing kids splashing and laughing like they were far away, when I knew all the while that they were right there above me. Substitute teachers were a gas; sometimes they knew stuff and sometimes they needed some teaching. Sometimes they got grouchy or stern. That’s when Dad’s trick of giving a big grin and saying “Good Morning how are you,” worked like a charm.
I never got anxious about sad things like people or pets dying, or car accidents, or people moving far away where I’d never see them again. Those things came out of the blue without any warning. Sad surprises made me cry. I was a pretty good problem solver, even when I was a little girl; that’s why Dad and Mom put me in charge so much. But even I knew some things have no solution. There was nothing I could do about those things, except be sad. The saddest was when Cleta’s big sister Betty-Jo died because somebody fell asleep while driving and hit her head-on. Old people dying, like Mom and Dad’s truck driver friend who was 45 and had a heart attack, was less sad. They were old and had a good life, and were probably ready to go to heaven and stop working all the live-long day. Sometimes people moved away, but mostly I got to see them again some time when I least expected it. Powie, that was like saving up box tops for a free prize and then forgetting I ordered it. Abracadabra, it arrived like a present I forgot to think about.
I never got scared until Grandpa told me about the tornado that hit Flint. He said first everything got still as death, then the sky turned green and the wind sounded like a train coming. After that, the window fan on a hot summer night woke me up, making me think about a tornado coming. I was sorta mad at Grandpa for painting a picture, clear as a bell, with his words, along with his eyes looking far off in the distance, like he could see his memory coming to life. Lots of times people thought I should be scared when I never even thought about it. Maybe other kids got scared about getting their tonsils out. I never had Mom sit with me for hours at a time, only me, no other kids. Plus other moms and doctors said nice stuff to me like, “oh, you’re so brave,” or “you poor thing, getting your tonsils out on your birthday.” That was the berries. I did get sorta mad about the promise of all the ice cream I could eat, ‘cuz after my tonsils came out, my throat was too sore for anything.
These days I wonder about anxiety. So many people suffer from anxiety: my daughter does, my sons do, my daughter-in-law does, my husband does, some of my grandchildren do. I never do. Sure I get worried, but anxiety is different. Anxiety freezes people I love; it makes their heart race and their hands shake. It makes them unsure of what action to take next. Anxiety sounds awful. Oh, for sure my mind races like a jack-rabbit sometimes, imagining all sorts of horrible outcome to situations. Sometimes, my imagination races to dreadful scenarios. Like the time I was reading while commuting and everyone got off the “el” train because it reached the end of the line. All the lights went out, and the train groaned and the wheels squealed against the tracks as it lumbered past abandoned cars. My mind raced to rats and broken glass, and how would I get home, and where would we stop, and would there be dangers I didn’t even know to think about. I said to myself, “What’s the worst that can happen? Pay attention, watch where the train is going, compared to where you should be. When it stops, pry the door open, get out and make your way back. I saw more wild critters in the fields where you grew up than could be in this trainyard.” I took a deep breath. I prepared for the worst. While I did all my problem solving, the train lumbered in a big circle. The doors opened and people got on, right at the stop where I wanted to get off. I was exactly where I needed to be.