When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon to hear somebody in my family or community say that someone or something had them “worried sick”–the idea being that external stresses could, if too great, lead to physical illness.
A couple of weeks ago, I was driving Edwina to an appointment when she shook her head and told me her boy had her worried sick. She’d mentioned her worries before and related her concern to the depression she sometimes felt when sitting alone in her apartment.
“He up to no good, Miss Rayan,” she said. “I about ready to tell him to get on outta my house if he can’t get himself together.”
The problem? Despite spending some time in prison, Steve is back in the drug business. He sleeps most of the day and is out all night. Edwina isn’t sure what to do, but she dreams a bit about him getting picked up by the cops and sent back to prison so he can start again. The alternative, I suppose, is that he doesn’t get caught and meets a more permanent end.
It turns out that I’ve been yearning the past two weeks to side-step my own encounter with worry. My brother is once again returning my family to the horrors of drug addiction and alcoholism. I wake up some mornings feeling like I’m back in high school hearing stories about my brother’s latest escapades and drift off to sleep at night praying that everyone I care about stays safe. Like Edwina, I’m hoping that he’ll land in a jail cell instead of a cemetery before it’s too late.
In the meantime, I distract myself in the only ways I know how. I write. I teach. I watch movies with my kids and throw a ball around in the front yard. I take long walks to clear my mind.
I refuse to allow myself to be worried into sickness.