FOF Susan Orlins, an author, blogger and self-proclaimed “worry wart,” reflects on the perpetual battle between worry and happiness in her life and why post-50, she still makes room for both.
Left: Susan at her computer, Right: Susan’s book, Confessions of a Worrywart
[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Susan Orlins is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to email@example.com.]
In the same way my oldest daughter, when she was little, shared her life with invisible companions Sibby and Babby, my own tag-alongs, Worry and Happiness, accompany me wherever I go.
Like sibling rivals, they argue constantly, vying for my attention. Happiness tells Worry, “If you’d vamoose, I could have her all to myself.”
“With all the bad things she thinks up, she needs me,” retorts Worry. “I’m not about to skedaddle anytime soon.”
Okay guys, quit quarreling, you’re both right. Worry, it’s true you get in Happy’s way, yet, I do feel safer knowing you’re there with me when scary thoughts sprout.
Nonetheless, I’m realistic enough to know that Worry can’t control everything on my list: world peace, my daughters’ safety, polar bears, homelessness, the budget deficit, sneezing while driving, driving, the Supreme Court, decapitation by a ceiling fan…
Even though Worry follows me wherever I go, Happiness has had its peaks: being a stockbroker in the seventies alongside guys who made every day feel like a party, living in China, raising kids and campaigning for my ex’s Congressional race.
Left: Susan and her daughters, Right: Susan on a biking tour through China
Then along came my divorce to prove I was not immune to big setbacks. I spent a year writing nothing except lengthy faxes to my lawyer. Yet, I continued to enjoy happiness pockets (“pockets” instead of “peaks,”), like snuggling on the couch watching “Gilmore Girls” with my girls and romances with a smattering of Mr. Wrongs.
Among other joys reaped after my marriage ended, I formed friendships I never would have had time to cultivate had I remained married. And having time to write and blog, despite it’s solitary nature, gives me the pleasure of engaging with strangers.
Last week someone said to me, “If you say you’re happy people just get jealous.” It’s true. Recently I had to stop following a well-known author on Twitter, because she was always off to do this reading or that book talk and constantly tweeting about the hilarious fun she was having.
Not that I begrudge anyone else their successes, nor would I want to stand in anyone’s knock-off Uggs except my own, but still it’s more comforting to pretend nobody’s having a better time than I am.
After finding myself single again, I began searching for Susan Fishman, my free spirited twenty-something self, who did things like crash the star-studded opening of the Barbra Streisand film “Funny Lady” at the Kennedy Center. How different we are.
What made me happy in the 60s and 70s is not what makes me happy now. The last thing I want to do is don a long skirt, and sneak in somewhere (or even pay) to gawk at and be ignored by glitterati.
My ideal day now consists of putting on elastic waist pants and writing, biking, watching Oprah on Tivo while I broil a pork chop. And watching a Larry David reruns while I take a hot bath. All with my dog, Casey by my side.
In 1989, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” won a Grammy for Song of the Year. For me, it’s not one or the other. Today, I’ve learned to make room for both.
Susan’s hilarious, poignant memoir, Confessions of a Worrywart: Husbands, Lovers, Mothers, and Others is available in paperback and in ebook form. Also visit her blog.