It’s dark outside, not yet morning, but I slip from my bed, tip-toe to the bathroom and down the stairs. I spent the last five hours in a restless doze, waking every half hour or so and checking the clock. I had gone to bed at 12:30 am, bleary-eyed after a long day racing with the kids and then four hours straight sitting in front of the computer writing, discarding, writing, discarding. I’m anxious. I have an unfinished essay on my mind; and because of it I can’t sleep. For hours I lay there, snuggled under covers, tossing and turning, ideas popping in and out of my head as I unsuccessfully try to think myself into unconsciousness. I jump up with a start when I realize I am not alone; there’s one person at this very moment, in another town, doing the exact same thing I am. My mother.
It’s not for the same reasons, of course, but my mother is someone who when something is on her mind, it goes straight to her heart.
Often, we’ll speak and the conversation will go something like this,
Her, nervous and anxious – “I couldn’t sleep again last night.”
Me, nibbling on snacks, going through mail, half-listening – “Oh no. What now?”
“I’m worried I did the wrong thing about…”
Now here you could insert almost anything from “I cut my hair too short” to “I wish I had been a better mom.” My mother has the unique capacity to fret over everything in her life, big and small, no matter if it happened that day or 30 years ago. She can’t let it go and will worry herself until a new worry emerges to supersede it.
When my brother bought a new house, she worried if it was the right one. Then she worried that it was the wrong one. She worried about what color they’d paint it. And she worried about when they’d paint. Then she worried about the paint. Once it was done, she worried if it was the right color. She didn’t sleep for months over that.
I am the calm one, reminding her to relax. Trying to focus her on the important things or bring her around to the positive side. I like to think I keep it all in perspective. I tell myself I’m not crazy like that, yet here I am, typing out my thoughts while my body begs for sleep. I can’t seem to rest till it’s done. It hits me that all the women on my side are fretters to some degree. My grandmother was a fretter and my aunt is a fretter as well. My cousins, although it’s been diluted through the years, are little fretters. Maybe, it’s part of me, passed down like my green eyes and beyond my control. How aggravating.
From the dark silence of my sleeping house, my four year-old calls out and I race with soft feet up the stairs to his room. “Mama,” he says drowsily, “sleep with me.” I place my head down on the pillow and feel my tension lift as his little hands pull me closer to snuggle. Wait, maybe it doesn’t run in the family. I can let things go and relax. I can fight the fret! I breathe in the sweet scent of my son’s curly mop. As I drift off, my brain no longer running but slowing to a walk, my last thought as I flutter on the edge of consciousness is that this would make a great ending to my essay.
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