It’s strangely easy to worry about pneumonia. You know exactly what to fear, what the outcome could be. You know what to hope for and what to worry about. When it’s your ten-year-old, you know what not to say out loud, what to try not to even think. She will get better, or she won’t. And while it was always most likely that she would get better, the knowledge of the alternative is too much to bear. Easy to worry about, because the hope and the fear is so clear. We focus on the hospital visits and the x-rays and prescriptions and care, and things like vacuuming and grading and appointments and bathing are set aside. That’s what I mean when I say it’s easy to worry about pneumonia. It has all our attention, and everything else can get ignored.
And she did get better, eventually. The burden of the real worry is off our shoulders. That’s better, easier than the worrying, of course.
But now I get to think of the other things to worry about. I suppose the capacity to worry is an internal reservoir that will always be ready to be filled with something. The somethings aren’t usually important, and pneumonia does a good job of reminding me of that. They still need to be done, though.
Recently, in sharp contrast to a life-or-death worry, I’ve been fretting over replacing a phone whose time has come, whose battery doesn’t charge, whose capacity to do things is less than what I’ve wanted. I carry around with me a phone, an iPod Touch, and usually a leather bound journal. It’s interesting how with each improvement to my organization with some new device I also have this extra clutter. The exception to this is probably the journal, where I jot down little pieces of everything from meeting notes to lists of things to pick up at the store to brainstorming. I recently lost it — I still don’t really know where I left it, except that it was turned in a few days later at the lost and found of our science lab. So, apparently, it was somewhere in the science lab, but it still could have been anywhere there. I’d had this fear that there was something written in that notebook that I’d lost forever and would never get back, a genius idea or beginning of a project that would never see the light of day. It turns out, now that I have the journal safely back in my hands, that all those notes were amazingly inconsequential. Maybe there’s one page in there that’s worth something. Besides that there are a few receipts that will get me reimbursed for some batteries I bought at the hardware store.
The worry that I’ve faced with the new phone investigation is that I want the phone to also be the thing that hosts my to do lists, email, calculator, random note taker — all the things that my iPod currently does so well for me. So the problem? The worry? Well, it’s a new device, a different operating system. So I’ve spent countless time investigating different software options that will work on the device and the computer and my idiosyncrasies to replace my current system. In other words: my current, most tedious “to do” is to find a replacement “to do” task management system. Yes, I actually worry about these kinds of things. How to organize my time to find a software and hardware system to organize my time? Maybe it’s a break from worrying about pneumonia, or maybe it’s a way to ignore other things to worry about. Or, maybe, I’m so discombobulated that I’ve reached this point.
These are the things that are hard to worry about. They aren’t as important as pneumonia, obviously, and that’s exactly part of what makes them hard to worry about. When the options aren’t life-or-death, but how to best make sense of stupid details, and which stupid details to consider when finding the right stupid-detail-organizing software . . . well, it’s all ridiculously stupid. And that’s what I finally concluded. I took a deep breath. I realized that I didn’t need a synchronized list of to-do items in my pocket every moment. They’ll be sitting on my desk. If I think of another one — inevitable — I’ll jot myself a note and set it aside. Or I’ll email it to myself, or call myself, or record a voice memo, or . . . Well, that’s a new worry. Maybe I should dump the handheld electronic device entirely and just make that leather journal a little more valuable.