White Girl Worries

But who can deny that there is a hierarchy of worry-worthiness?

When I launched my blog, Confessionsof a Worrywart, I worried about appearing frivolous or insensitive to my readers, especially those with real problems. A friend, whose daughter has cystic fibrosis, once told me, “When they find a cure for CF, I’ll worry about world peace.” Another friend calls the things I worry about “white girl worries.”

Seven years ago a 200-year-old poplar tree fell on my house, causing damage that took a year to repair. I said to my psychotherapist, “How can I complain, given that we’re safe, while our family friends just lost their son in a car crash?” He replied with the shrink party line, “You’re entitled to your worries.” Entitled? Perhaps. But who can deny that there is a hierarchy of worry-worthiness?

I cannot recall a time that I did not think like a worrywart. As Queen Isabella in the third grade play, the only way I could keep from giggling was to picture my mother dead, something I worried about a lot (she lived to be 92). So when I attended a lecture by positive psychologist and author of Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar, otherwise known as the Harvard Happiness Professor, I asked whether people like me are wired to worry. “Yes,” he answered, with no hint of optimism that my brain can be rewired.

Which brings me back to my blog. During my plump years of young motherhood, I wrote a diet tips article (never published) and in the process lost 12 pounds. Now, by examining the imagined fearsome scenarios that pop into my head, maybe I can shed some worry weight, as well as provide commiseration for fellow worrywarts. Others who read my posts may be inspired to give thanks for being non-worrywarts.

Susan Orlins is an award-winning journalist and author of a new memoir, Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others. The divorced mother of three daughters, she lives in Washington, D.C. with her beagle, where she leads a writing workshop for the homeless.

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