By CF, courtesy of NYT

By CF, courtesy of NYT

Lately I’ve been joking a lot about monetizing my anxiety. Why not? Everyone loves an entrepreneur.

Early in the year, I spoke with the author Claire Messud about her latest novel and, in one of the many tangents that conversation would take, she explained to me how some women are “good in their skin,” like the sort-of villain in her book. I think there was a french phrase associated with that, which I don’t remember because I can’t speak french, but the unfairness of the concept really struck me. So much so, when I played the interview back for transcription a while later I heard myself ask Messud: “REALLY? These people exist?” And there’s so much doubt in my voice that it doesn’t even sound like me anymore, my low nasal drone warped shrill with incredulity. Without context, a listener might guess that a third person had entered the mix.

Anxiety is a feeling of impending doom that finds a home in everything. I work for myself on a contract-to-contract basis, so there’s plenty in the inherent structure (or lack thereof) of my day to day to encourage an ongoing hum of existential dread. But I know it wouldn’t make a difference if I woke up every morning to the same routine at the same reliable desk job with the same benevolent taskmaster making sure I met my daily quotas. Because anxiety is something I carry with me, like an infant. I am its next-level attachment parent, shaping my life in tandem with its wants and pissy peeps, holding it over strategically placed bowls when it wants to void its bowels. I try not to think about how codependent we are, how much the both of us needs the other in order to exist in a way that makes sense. Fact is, there’s always something to ruminate over, a future to prepare for, a now to correct. Things are going well? That other shoe will hurt especially hard once it drops. 

I’ve discovered the New York Times‘ anxiety blog, which makes me feel a little less like shit–or, at least, like I have company in the quagmire. It’s quite an age to worry in! So many channels for our thought loops! Every day is pretty much a worrier’s choose-your-own-adventure. 

“We worry,” says the blog. “Nearly one in five Americans suffer from anxiety. For many, it is not a disorder, but a part of the human condition.” 

I haven’t determined the line between disorder and human condition, and neither has the profession that’s responsible for drawing those distinctions. But I’ll probably spend the next ten minutes mulling it over, or until I come up with a professional worrier’s business plan. I hope it will involve bumper stickers.