Confessions of a Worrier

There are those who worry when it’s appropriate. They don’t do it routinely. They need rational reasons.

That doesn’t describe me. I am a true, confirmed, authentic, constant worrier. And even if I didn’t have anything to worry about, I would just think for a moment and come up with something. It’s the nature of the beast, and I’m the best of the beasts.

For example, this morning I had a visitor, and we discussed COVID-19. This member of my very own family, who shall remain anonymous, is certain that the COVID curve is heading downward and it could matter less what the famous doctors in the newspapers and on television have to say. He knows he will never be diagnosed with COVID, and he can tell you of all the exposures he’s had without once testing positive.

On the other hand, there’s me. I know that my husband and I are totally vulnerable and that we will get it later or sooner, but probably sooner. Hopefully, we’ll survive it, but there’s no guarantee. We are the very old, a category that does not do well with the disease. We’re the ones with the already-to-go supply of Paxlovid. We would never dream of travel without it. Our stash has already been to Israel and Florida.

We are the unrecognizable ones, wearing masks in the ShopRite and on the plane. We’re the five times vaxxed, just waiting for the opportunity to eagerly line up for number six.

So it is with my life. I always see the depressing, downward slope to everything. Absolutely everything.

Thus, while instant communications via cell phones and the internet and text messaging are all available, I know I would be better off without them. You see, when I don’t get an immediate response from any of those in my inner circle, meaning my children and their spouses, my grandchildren and their spouses, my sister, and my very own husband, I am instantly in a panic.

I mean it. Instantly! Where are they? Why are they incommunicado?

And then come the images that my brain promptly supplies. I won’t go into them now, but they are not pretty. They are scary. And then I enter the adrenalin-pounding fear-zone, from which the only return is the original sought-after response, which could be that the searched-for person was on another phone, or somewhere else innocuous. The relief, however, is always temporary. Soon it’s replaced by another worry.

My mother, another in our long maternal family line of worriers, had it easier. In the days before all these high-tech communications, she expected an aerogramme from my sister in Israel about every 10 days or so. She didn’t start the worrying schedule until day 11 or 12. There was an easy litany of excuses to be conjured, which included mail slowdowns due to holidays, or strikes, which could easily pacify her for another couple of days. Since my sister had no phone for at least her first decade in Israel, there was no option beyond worrying.

Today, worrying is so much simpler. That’s not good news!

On our paternal side we were blessed with calm. Dad never worried. I recall asking him once why he wasn’t pacing at the front window with Mom and Pop, her father. They were busily clucking away, again, about the whereabouts of my sister, who was late coming home. He chuckled and told me that there were sufficient worriers for the job at hand. He wouldn’t interfere.

I tell you all this so that when I share some global worries with you, you can put them into perspective, knowing whence they came. You may, thus, discount them, of course at your own peril.

Let me further suggest that as much as I worry, often life throws a curveball, and something unexpected happens that I haven’t worried about at all. For example, that’s the case with eating Hershey’s dark chocolates and learning now, a lifetime later, that they’re lead-laced, and with cadmium to boot. In all my life, even I never worried about eating Hershey’s.

Some of my worries are pretty legitimate, even if you don’t happen to agree with them. I worry that we Jews may not survive the present political environments in America and Israel. The movement to the right has embraced Jews of every political bent and it’s alarming, but just for parity, left is better, but not by much.

On a practical level, I never ever want to publicly criticize Israel, whose passport I carry and whose army includes our paratrooper grandson. Let me just say that the new government makes it harder than ever to stick to that commitment.

Antisemitism is another pervasive worry. It’s literally everywhere, especially in places like college campuses, the media, and politics. For all those who raise their voices against it, many more are silent or compliant. Remember, and please never forget, Donald Trump’s dinner guests. Jew-hatred is a worldwide epidemic, even, until recently, extending to Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk. And the very hope of the world for peace in our times, the United Nations, is a prime offender.

Guns are another tragic epidemic that each of us should worry about, constantly, angrily! I really don’t want my shul to need to have top-notch security in place and I certainly don’t want the day schools or public schools or universities or shopping malls or anywhere else where my progeny go to be under threat. And I don’t want you or yours to be innocent victims of the insane violence that is rampant in America either.

Guns are powerful and grotesque. Worrying about them is not excessive. Thousands of our citizens, many very very young, lie in graves dug by guns. It is nothing less than a form of insanity to allow the NRA to control our lives — and our deaths.

Politics in these 50 nifty United States are pretty much calamitous as well. I like Joe Biden. He’s a nice old man, just a tad younger than I, but nonetheless obviously not a kid. I know how forgetful I am, and how the words don’t always flow smoothly, and how easily I get tired. I simply cannot possibly imagine that things will get better for Joe in the next six years. Just cannot happen. The fountain of youth is a mere mirage. Old age is not for the faint of heart.

If you live long enough, you will be very old. The president, although you’d never know it from American politics, should be an energetic idealist, at the peak of his personal powers. He needs to be brilliant, creative, and charming. And of course, she doesn’t need to be a male.

Certainly Joe has to retire at the end of this term. But I’m not dazzled by Kamala; her womanhood is not enough to elect her to the presidency. Truthfully, I know that if she were not a woman she would never have been selected. Joe, mistakenly, promised that if he were nominated he would choose a woman to be his vice president. A campaign promise and a mistake. We should be beyond gender politics. Better if he had promised the best possible candidate.

But swing over to the Republicans and you have a real debacle, filled with venomous and hateful people like Elise, Marjorie, Lindsey, Jim, Ron, George, Matt, Lauren, and Donald, just for starters. Of course Hillary was correct. Where did all these despicable deplorables come from? Instead of being the very best of us, they truly and honestly are the very worst. I used to think of myself as an ecumenical voter, someone who voted for the candidates I thought would fulfill the mission of America. I would vote Republican, Democratic, or even independent if that candidate was talented and honorable enough. Being my mother’s daughter, I remember well that Mom voted for Henry Wallace, independent, in 1948. These days I can vote only Democratic, since, even with all their own issues, they are a far cry from the Republicans who are a constant stream of alarming anti-Americans. These are not the heirs to Eisenhower and Reagan — they are the heirs to Nixon and Agnew. But these heirs have surpassed their paradigms.

If that’s not enough, we also have the Supreme Court. The danger signs there are flashing red. Alarms are ringing. Calling some of these folks — specifically Clarence and all the Trump appointees — justices is a true oxymoron. This terrifying court operates with no guardrails, speeding along with their right-wing fervor. They can do just about anything, and no one can stop them.

And lest I not tell you about the hangers-on, people like Steve and Ginni and Rudy and Stephen. Can you honestly tell me that I shouldn’t worry about them? Of course you can’t.

I once was a noble college student. Somewhere in time, somewhere in America, I lost that youthful idealism. Pragmatism won me over in the end, not out of choice but out of reality. For a pessimist like me, a major worrier, reading the political tea leaves has become a nightmare. And the pundits scare me
even more.

Where I see Trump as a failed candidate for 2024, these mavens conjure up ways for him to slither into the presidency again. They may not want it to happen, but they see exit ramps for him, various strategies that would see him elected once more in spite of everything he has done. There is truthfully a there there, an elephant in the room! This is simply horrifying. I’m not dumb enough, however, to say it’s unbelievable.

So what’s a worrier to do? Or, better put, is there time in the day to divert and enjoy a good meal or an engrossing novel? I’m just not sure.

About the Author
Rosanne Skopp is a wife, mother of four, grandmother of fourteen, and great-grandmother of three. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and travels back and forth between homes in New Jersey and Israel. She is currently writing a family history.