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Worried All the Time
An Essay by Julie Hausermann

audio Listen to Hausermann's essay.

Oct. 21, 2001 -- It's gotten to the point at my house where sometimes we just have to turn the war off. All that bad news. You listen to the talking head while more horrible events crawl across the screen. I'm worried all the time.

I'm worried about the 'stans -- Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, my ex-husband, Stan. I already had a bunch of things to worry about before -- my parents getting so daft they forget to put their teeth in, my kid telling me she socked a kid at preschool and liked it, the religious right, bad oysters, Firestone tires.

I was worried about George W. being president, but I see we're really not allowed to worry about that anymore. Now I have to worry about things I never thought I'd have to worry about, like crop dusters and anthrax, or Peter Jennings saying, “And that's today's update on anthrax,” as if he were not uttering the most surreal line to pass a newsman's lips since “Kenneth, what's the frequency?”

"I worry about a war that hasn't been declared. But it beams into our living rooms with a musical soundtrack like some overproduced miniseries."

Julie Hausermann

Cut to the commercial where you can dial a 1-800 number and press 1 to buy a weatherproof flag, 2 to buy a Chia Pet, or 3 to order a commemorative Enduring Freedom coin.

Fortunately, due to the high volume, a bunch of things have come off my worry list. Even though I live in Florida, I'm not worried about shark attacks anymore. Ditto alligators. And West Nile virus. I'm not even worried about the ozone layer anymore. I thought I could quit worrying about nuclear holocaust, but that one's right back on the list. I worry about a world where the National Guard confiscates manicure scissors from old ladies as a matter of national security. I worry that we trained the hijackers right here in the USA. I worry that we trained Timothy McVeigh. And the kids who strolled into their high schools and blew their classmates away.

I'm worried about my militia-style neighbor in Florida, who keeps driving his Humvee restlessly up and down his driveway. On weekends we hear him back there on his huge spread shooting guns. I worry about a war that hasn't been declared. But it beams into our living rooms with a musical soundtrack like some overproduced miniseries.

I keep trying to move through my day, wading through molasses, forcing myself to notice things that are still beautiful and true. I know that my mother, an impossibly perky person, will call me soon. “Is everything all right?” she'll ask. “Yeah, Mom,” I'll say, “everything's just fine.” Altogether now, everybody, let's practice. “We're fine. Everything's just fine. We're fine. Everything's just fine.”

Julie Hausermann is a reporter in the capital bureau of the St. Petersburg Times.