I never could concentrate on anything as a kid because my mind was always too cluttered with worrying about things. And not just normal run of the mill worries, either, oh no, I had phobias. Different assortments, like one of those cheap boxes of candy from the drug store, not uniform creamy chocolate phobias, but random chalky waxy fake chocolate worries. Some perilous and founded, others a quick sign of the cross usually took care of.
Amassing these phobias, which came into full bloom by age eight, was gradual. I never noticed that, like cotton, they were the fabric of my life. My phobias formed quickly, whereas someone else might hear of a frightening situation, think nothing more of it, and move on, my way was to consider it a gift from God that I had been alerted to this occurrence, because what if?
For instance, in the third grade, during my Cleopatra obsession. Why I was allowed to read every book ever written about this bewitching woman is a story for another day, but whatever, she held me transfixed. I would outline my eyes with black washable magic marker and wrap my mother's costume jewelry around my head so it would dangle between my eyebrows. I was having a good time being Cleopatra until I got to the part where I found out it was an Asp's bite that killed her.
That’s all it took for me to spend that next weekend's afternoons at the local library, living in between the bookshelves and memorizing every photographic depiction of *Asp.* I needed to know what they looked like in case any of them found their way to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. And if you think this is something to laugh at, describe an Asp to me now. You can't, can you? My prayers are with you.
On the days I wasn’t walking to school with my eyes glued to the ground for suspicious moving sticks that might actually be Asps, I spent my mental energy worrying about Mondays. On Mondays, I had to worry about the lunch lady. I always started the week with a five-dollar bill that I’d have to break because Monday was Hot Dog Day. Our class had just studied counterfeit bills in school. The one-dollar bill was the most commonly traded paper currency, ergo, the lunch lady was going to be giving me back counterfeit change. But, not if I could help it.
It was exhausting being on top of everything that threatened to take me down, and I was tiring of the heightened alert of the perceived threat. I wanted peace. One day, I decided to assign my worries a schedule, like a work schedule. I would only think about them on their day.
--Mondays would be counterfeit money/Asp worry day.
--Tuesdays I would worry about my pen running out of ink mid class-note taking.
--Wednesdays were for worrying about not having enough tissues in my desk for a bloody nose.
--Thursday's dilemma was what I would say if Lisa, the most popular girl in class, were ever to talk to me.
--Fridays, I would worry about Sister Josephine calling me up to the board to diagram sentences.
My schedule worked. Saturday, I worried about nothing. Sunday, my mind was as quiet as the 11 p.m. *This concludes our broadcasting day* screen.
This schedule tamed my worry state of mind. Having done my homework on anything that could threaten my world, this put my concerns to rest. I had taken the appropriate steps of arming myself with knowledge and thereby minimizing any risk. Recognizing an Asp in a minute? No problem. And I knew the way to identify a counterfeit one-dollar bill was by texture.
Just by having the answer to these questions, I could finally relax.
My only worry these days is how all of you fall asleep at night, not knowing whether an Asp really does look like a stick or not.
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