When you grow up, you don’t really worry about your parents. They’re just there, acts of nature. As far as you knew, they existed since the beginning of time and they would be here for the rest of it. Sisters are there mostly to be teased, so I didn’t get too caught up with worrying about her either.
In other words, it was just me I had to worry about. Life was good. Life was simple.
But then this marriage thing happened. For the first time in my life I worried when this person left the house. “Would she make it back?” my crazy mind would wonder. “I sure hope she’s okay,” would be a thought I would regularly have when she was gone for more than ten minutes.
As far as I knew, this was a bizarre thought for a grown man to have. It reminded me, weirdly, of when my mom would have something that can only be compared to a heart attack and a stroke at the same time when I would come back a few minutes after my curfew.
At first, I thought this was an aberration, a confusing problem brought on by those silly Disney love movies that make it seem like you should actually care about the people around you. Something I would get over soon enough.
But then baby #1 came. And you see, now there was this precious thing, this thing that I was for the first time aware did not exist for all time. This was no force of nature, this was a treasure that appeared because of a very delicate and luck-filled series of events. She had to be delivered in a hospital because something could go wrong. She was this delicate thing. One wrong move and… I didn’t want to think about it.
I was no longer just worrying at specific moments. I was worrying all the freaking time. Every cry, every time I didn’t hold her perfectly, that time I wasn’t paying attention when she was in a sling and I lightly tapped her head against a bookstore display case. And just about every time in between.
This experience taught me something: that life is precious. That it’s delicate, and we’re all lucky if we happen to be moving at all, let alone healthy and vibrant.
This was not a realization I wanted to have. I liked it so much more when my parents were forces of nature, when my sister existed solely to be teased… At this point, I was even willing to go back to the time when I only worried about my wife when she would go out. This realization about my daughter meant that I suddenly worried about everyone even close to me.
When daughter #2 came, life got increasingly complicated. They would both cry at the same time, and my heart would erupt in worry, practically jumping out of my chest. I was worrying constantly.
And worse, every look they gave me was the most absolutely beautiful precious thing I had ever seen. Delicate miracles, do you understand? Treasures of reality, brought out of the world of ethereal nothing and into my tiny two bedroom in Brooklyn.
And now whenever I visited my parents, I would have similar feelings. Feelings of realizing just how preciously beautiful they are. Just how delicate life is. Just how lucky I am to have them. And when my wife and I took my sister to Indian food, and I realized how freaking lucky we are, the circle was complete.
Do you understand what a travesty this is?
Before, life was natural, everything was stuck in place, and there was no such thing as miracles, no such thing as realizing how delicate it all was. Nothing to be grateful for. That was the good life.
When nothing is beautiful, when nothing is delicate or precious, when we have nothing to live for, life is so much better. We have nobody to worry about. No one for our heart to flutter for when they leave the room, or they cry with their tiny mouths, or get a bit sick.
And it gets worse when you start to open your heart to even more people after that. Friends, acquaintances, even strangers.
This happened to me. Opening my heart to the people around me opened it further and further. Do you know how painful that is? To see girls in Nigeria kidnapped and think of your own daughters? To see wars and revolutions all around and realize that there are real people suffering there? That the person on the street begging for money is actually cold and hungry, and isn’t just a prop G-d put there to make me feel better about my own life?
What a disaster. The more I love, the more I care, and thus the more I worry.
I wish I took a cue from the people that were smarter than me: the ones who never let themselves fall into this trap. The ones who say that “being happy” is all that matters in life.
They’re the smart ones, the ones who don’t notice the miracle that is reality. The ones who focus inwardly and ignore the pain of others and realize that worry is just a burden.
It’s too late for me, honestly, and I realize there’s no turning back. But hopefully it’s not too late for you. The next time someone near you needs some love, run for the hills.