When I was a kid I was a big MAD Magazine fan. It was my gateway vehicle to parody, it tackled some of my embedded middle class beliefs and made relentless fun of them. Everything was fair game. Sometimes, I felt like I was going against the rules by even looking at it. The only reason my parents allowed this subversive publication in our house was probably because they thought it was just a silly comic book. Well, it was sort of, and therein lied its brilliance! It’s goofy glossy covers looked harmless enough, but MAD’s highly visual content opened my eyes to life’s absurdities, allowing me to laugh at, well….. anything (even my beloved Disney movies). MAD’s iconic mascot, Afred E. Neuman with his slogan “What, Me Worry” has stayed with me my entire life. Sort of a way to say “In yo face life! I’ve got this.”
Recent events have shaken my belief in my “I’ve got this!” ability. The worst of which was my mother’s death due to a horrible disease called Alzheimers. Her decline and suffering shook my family to its core. It swept me up into a tornado of emotions that I am still trying to sort out. In addition, my adult sons are having their own life issues that I can’t solve for them, though I desperately want to. The simple act of scrolling my Facebook page confronts me with a world reeling from violence, chaos and stupidity, OK there’s plenty of dog videos and Weird Al, which of course makes the scrolling worthwhile ;).
The point is, what I’m finding more and more of in my life is something that could be slowly killing us all, and that is STRESS. Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America? There is a medical term for it, GAD it stands for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Wikipedia defines it as: “a mood disorder that is characterized by multiple and or non specific worries that interfere with a person’s life in some way.” When we can’t control things the way we want to, we worry about it. I think that is why I love story books so much, fictional characters go through their own conflicts, stumbling and bumbling along, they learn as they go. Some end happily ever after, and I have to admit, I like those endings the best. Fictional characters can be controlled, I like that too. At the end of a scary thriller we can always close the book and tell ourselves it was just a story.
What can we tell ourselves to help us through our own story, when the tornado comes from out of nowhere, rips us off our feet, carries us away and sets us down who knows where? What do we tell ourselves to help keep us sane in what seems many times to be an insane world, a world we can’t control? I don’t have any answers, except maybe to keep reading the stories, keep creating, love each other, laugh at ourselves, and remember what Alfred E. Neuman would say…”What, Me Worry?”