Monday, February 17, 2014

Is It or Isn't It. Only Her Asp Knows for Sure

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.
* * * 

 Other Places You Can Find Me This Week:

Huffington Post

Aiming Low

MetroParent Milwaukee

Purple Clover


  1. #1 Iran hostage crisis meant that I worried constantly I'd be kidnapped and held hostage for years.
    #2 Incredible Hulk episode with graphic scene meant that I worried more about belly button vulnerability than most children.
    #3 Wrath of Kahn meant I worried any time I was without cotton for my ears that I would be assaulted via ear canal.
    #4 Harriet the Spy meant that I lived in constant fear that my diary would be read. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing meant I lived in fear my diary would *not* be read.
    My worries weren't day-specific. I totally should have compartmentalized like you did. You're a genius.

  2. I worry about creepy crawlies climbing out of the toilet ALL. THE. TIME.
    I think I should just assign it a day.

  3. ha. that we could schedule them says enough.
    my greatest fear and one that haunts me as i put my head down each night is something happening to my children

  4. Well, I COULD sleep without worrying about that - until now, of course. Thanks.

  5. Assigned worries for the win! Put them on the calendar and they'll learn their place. Thanks, everyone. xo

  6. And now I'm worried about asps. THANKS A LOT.

    I like that you scheduled them. I think I'll try that.

    Hmmm . . . so you're good AND evil. I like you.

  7. I'm a disorganized worrier. I like the way you think. Now I'm worried I'm too disorganized. That'll be for Friday.

  8. I'm just impressed that as a girl you had a Cleopatra obsession. I was probably obsessing about Laurie Partridge at that age. I do remember when I found out about Cleopatra and the asp -- I didn't know what the heck an asp was.

  9. I do not see a day dedicated to worrying about falling icicles, but don't you grandmother and I had that covered for you!

  10. I'm not so worried about asps (aspi?) but worrying about cracks in my house that might let in a stray rabid bat, that's high on my priority list.

  11. OH, I smiled all the way through this. I was (and still am) a nervous small dog of a person, so reading this was like meeting a kindred heart. xoxo

  12. Oh yeah, I was a weird kid like that, too. I'd worry about something like I was a rat terrier. Come to think of it, I'm still like that...

  13. You know I didn't have many worries as a kid except for the usual popularity ones; but my worries have increased exponentially as I've gotten older and gained in responsibilities. I DID have a Cleopatra addiction, too however (and spent many Halloweens in a modified toga--my hair was already black with bangs, so I was ahead of the game.

  14. All my people were weirdies, I LOVE IT. xo

  15. I have a strange phobia of vomiting. Before I became a mom, I couldn't even handle other people vomiting, much less doing it myself. Now that I have kids, I can handle their barfy episodes, but I can count on starvation because…I stop eating, knowing full well I will catch it next. I hate throwing up. REALLY hate it. I act like a baby when I get the stomach flu. ;-(

  16. Hilarious! I am going to go Google "asp" immediately. I was obsessed with Cleopatra, too. Maybe not as much as you, but I DID make an amazing Cleopatra headdress from chicken wire, paper mache, and gold paint. I wish I still had it.

  17. I worried about nuclear war and vans without windows when I was a kid. How I wish I would have known to rest on the weekends. I would probably be a more laid-back person today.



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