Sometimes I’ve been known to fret. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’m actually admitting it for the first time right here. In fact, I just came to this conclusion last week. And, quite honestly, I’m relieved. This is a load off my mind and simplifies my life quite a bit.
To fret: to be vexed or troubled; worry. Synonym: brood. A worrier? Hmmm, that’s what I thought I was before last week (for years, actually). After all, I was voted most pessimistic in my high school graduating class. This is not to say I don’t worry. But worrying is reserved for big things. In refining my personal profile, fretting better describes my more mundane, everyday preoccupations. A brooder? Yes, it fits the bill.
I came to this conclusion as I was laying in bed, watching TV. During a commercial I thought “if I could only find my Palm, everything would be perfect.” Suddenly it hit me. I’d been internally listing those little, gnawing things and after surveying the list I’d ruminate about each and every item. Finding my Palm, as it turned out, was the last thing on my list for I had dispatched my shoe problem the day before.
I’ve come to hate buying shoes. My long-standing size has suddenly become too small. The salesman told me as you get older your feet can grow. I asked if that was like your ears and nose, which tend to grow big and bulbous as you enter retirement. He nodded as he placed the next larger size on my feet. They felt great. I could wiggle my toes. I did the perfunctory shoe store walk back and forth and left. There was nothing remaining on my fretting list and I was very happy. It was a warm, early Spring day. I opened the sun roof and really enjoyed the ride, through congested streets, home. I felt the opposite of fret. I was content.
Two Yiddish words come to mind when describing these polar opposites: kvetch (kwetsch) and kvel (kweln). Somehow Yiddish defies specific English translation. This is, in fact, its attraction. Living in a Yiddish world defies any exactitude. Words often describe feelings. To kvetch mostly means to complain while to kvel means to take pride in. While these don’t literally describe the words fretting and contentment, they do apply to my state of mind. While I’m not complaining when I mull over my fret list, I am feeling the discomfort that complaining implies. Conversely, when I think about my contentment list items, I’m not showing any pride but I am feeling the fullness and well-being the word aptly conveys.
So I was kveling until I walked around in my new shoes at home and discovered the next larger size was now too big. My female coworkers smiled knowingly as I mentioned this during our daily morning check-in ritual. Women, apparently, have had this problem for millennia. This went back onto my fretting list. And I felt like a kvetch, a complainer.
I had to reduce this list as quickly as possible. Too many things bring me to the brink of chaos and that’s not a pretty picture. When I lay my head on the pillow for what I hope will be a good night’s rest I start to run down my list. I’m assuming you can relate.
However, if something really nice has happened that day I can focus on it as I fall asleep. It goes on my contentment list: like when I’ve written a new story (I will sleep very well tonight) or when my wife told me she really liked my stories (without me even suggesting she read them). That was written in bold on my list. Kveling is the best sedative I’ve ever taken.
My youngest has just come up to me to go over all her boo boos. She obviously has her own list. And my wife is wondering where her cell phone is. I have to find my Palm.
I quickly look in what I call the “first tier” locations: those places it would mostly likely be: my backpack, my desk, and the top of the bureau. Nothing. I move to the second tier: my cubby (yes, we all have cubbies; mine usually for mail and magazines) and storage boxes where my wife places all my overflow stuff (you know, those things she keeps asking me to remove from the top of any empty surface but never do). Nothing.
I’m starting to feel desperate as I start in on my third tier (those places I’d never put my Palm but now feel I must investigate): the bathroom, on top of the TV, and under the bed. Desperation can move you to extremes. You begin to wonder if someone has taken it (you know, stolen it). You’re almost ready to point a finger. It’s that bad. Suddenly it’s late and the inevitable has happened: I’ve spent my entire evening looking for this thing and it still remains on my list as I prepare for slumber.
My father told me when I got married to never go to bed angry with my wife. But he never told me what to do with the things on my fretting list. I wake up the next morning and immediately go over every place (logical or not) my Palm could be. I go back to my first tier, this time looking slowly and methodically. It’s time to query my wife. She lists all the places I’ve already looked and when I groan that I’ve already looked there, she offers to look with fresh eyes. Nothing. I fret.
And then, it hits me (where these things come from is a mystery to me): the glove compartment of my car! I must admit, I am filled with anticipation. I know it’s there. I’m almost sure of it. In the recesses of my mind I actually think I remember putting it there. Is this just wishful thinking? I’ve never gotten to the fourth tier before.
Just the thought that I might finally have solved this is enough to move it from my fret to my contentment list (the more tiers you’ve scoured, the greater the pleasure). I’m in a very good mood. But should I be wrong, I can just as easily walk back through that border to the dark side unencumbered. This continuum is so transitory. But I’ll try not to fret too much about that.