Don’t Worry; Be Happy
BY JILL MATLOW
“Here’s a little song I wrote – you might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we, have some trouble – when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy…”
Talk about the understatement of the year! Bobby McFerrin may have to rework some of those lyrics to his famous tune from the 1980s, as worrying seems to be at an all-time high these days. Lately, I find myself growing more nostalgic with each passing day while I dream about my carefree (worry-free) past. Can you relate?
Remember Mad Magazine? For baby boomers like us, the grinning Alfred E. Neuman’s signature phrase “What me worry?” shaped our youth in many ways. Like many of you, I grew up reading Mad Magazine in the 1960s and 70s. It was such a carefree time in our lives.
My big worry back then was whether or not my sister would beat me in Monopoly or if my Close ‘n Play would ever break. How would I then be able to listen to the Fifth Dimension, Dionne Warwick, Bread or the Mamas and the Papas if that happened? Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry anymore when I upgraded to a turntable and then an 8-track player.
Don’t get me wrong. There were still some additional stressful times when I was younger. When my Barbie broke up with Ken (and gave up living with him in his split-level condo) I worried that she might not be able to make it on her own.
(Update: Barbie is really enjoying her single lifestyle and says she doesn’t miss Ken but she does miss his condo.)
“WHAT, ME WORRY?”
Fortunately, as I got older and stopped being so enamored with my Barbie doll, it was now time to worry about more pressing matters such as being accepted into the popular clique in school and getting good grades. Then it was off to college, where any worries I had dissipated after a few weeks upon settling down in my new fun environment. Was that your experience too?
In college, most of us embraced the mantra “what, me worry?” as it was a blissful time of our lives. Meanwhile, back on the home front, I’m sure our parents had many sleepless nights worrying about us and our shenanigans, and for good reason! (And for obvious reasons, I won’t list the shenanigans here).
As people used to warn us, enjoy college because they’re the best four years of your lives, and boy were they correct. The four years flew by and before we knew it, we were shifting gears and entering the real world. Not as idyllic as college, as we would soon find out.
Unfortunately, we would come to the realization that college never fully prepared us for the tyrannical bosses, massive workloads and tight deadlines we encountered when we entered the workforce and which prevailed for most of us for decades to come. Some of us worried that we would be living paycheck to paycheck forever, or feared losing our jobs or getting fired. I was one of those people who continued on the career track, while many of my friends got married and had children. I must have been a glutton for punishment.
THE FUN, COOL AUNT
With my work situation finally under control, the next chapter of worrying for me was in my role as the fun, cool aunt to my three nephews. I never had children so my worrying had a shelf life of their weekend visits to NYC. It was only then that I understood what it must be like being a parent and the type of worrying they must experience 24/7.
This was put to the test a few years ago when I wouldn’t allow my oldest nephew to ride the subway to a Brooklyn bar to meet some stranger from LinkedIn, who was wooing him for a job. I wasn’t super comfortable letting my nephew go to this ‘up-and-coming’ neighborhood, and I found it strange that this person from LinkedIn suggested a bar on a Saturday night for their first meeting.
You can only imagine how thrilled my nephew was when I told him he couldn’t go. In a split second, my status as the fun, cool aunt was no more.
It was a chance I wasn’t willing to take though, and that scenario made me realize the type of worrying parents must do every time their child walks out the front door. As my sister reminded me, you can’t function worrying 24/7 and have to trust that your children will hopefully make good decisions. It was then that I became aware that maybe being an aunt and not a parent, was truly my lot in life.
In a weird twist of irony, most of my worry these days is directed at my parents. Both in their 80s and enjoying good health, I am so grateful to still have both of them in my life. Now my worrying has shifted to thinking about them driving at night, being vulnerable, and of course their health. It’s funny how the roles somehow reverse between parent and child the older we get.
When I was in my 20s, it was my dad who encouraged me to take a Dale Carnegie course and one of the books we had to read was: “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”. Maybe I need to revisit that book for a bit of a refresher and to glean some new pearls of wisdom into how to better manage my worry these days.
Removing the obvious choice—politics—out of the equation, as you get older, what do you find yourself worrying about? Are you able to keep things in perspective and embrace the words of Leo Buscaglia—“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy”—or do you like to revisit worse case scenarios like I do on a daily basis?
Hopefully you’ve learned to manage your worry and choose to be happy instead. Have you? If so, we’d love to hear how you do it!