Monday, January 25, 2016


Of all the wasteful, unproductive, and frustrating pastimes we humans absolutely insist on wasting our time on, fretting surely has to be right there at the top of the list. I’ve come to the conclusion that fretting provides the same perverse form of pain/pleasure as picking a scab, and despite our protestations to the contrary, it must be, or we wouldn’t do it.

I’m quite good at fretting but, as with most things, not really a pro. Were college degrees offered in Fretting, I’d probably qualify for an associate’s degree at best. My friend Gary, however, would have a double PhD with honors. I have no idea where he possibly finds all the things to fret about, but if they are there, he will seek them out. He’s my best friend, and it’s unfair of me to single him out, since he is far from alone. He is in fact only one of a vast number of people for whom the making of an appointment for a routine dental checkup three weeks in advance provides three rich weeks of fretting, though not even they are sure exactly what it is they’re fretting about. Being a closet Obsessive-Compulsive probably helps. Full-time fretters never have housekeepers—they would fret so much about fearing to be thought untidy that they would clean the place from top to bottom (probably twice) before the housekeeper arrived.

I think I register so low on the Fret scale because I don’t really give a damn about some of the richest veins of ore for fretting.

Of course, fretting seems to be a part of the human condition, and there are times when it is both inevitable and understandable, as in the anticipation of physical, relationship, or financial crises. But even then fretting is less than worthless; it’s counterproductive. Fretting is Worry Lite, it’s Worry on a caffeine buzz, and while worry can sometimes lead to conclusions and solutions, fretting almost never results in anything positive.

One of the worst things about fretting is its insidiousness; it’s like inviting a vampire through the open window of your mind: once it enters, you’re doomed, and applying logic and rationality have absolutely no effect. Even knowing full well that the anticipation is far worse than the event, and that once the cause of the fret…that dentist’s appointment, say…is over, it simply goes away, like passing a kidney stone, and has no effect. We simply erase it from our minds and immediately move on to the next fret.

My total inability to control fretting once it has snuck into my mind is what I find most disturbing. I know it’s pointless; I know perfectly well that whatever I’m fretting about will not only pass, but that once it’s over I will wonder yet again why I’d ever wasted my time on it in the first place.

Animals don’t fret. Whatever happens happens when it happens and that seems to be just fine with them. They might put up something of a fuss if they want to be fed, but I wouldn’t call that fretting, necessarily…it’s more a physical reaction to being hungry. I doubt they spend much time fretting about what time they’ll have dinner and what might be on the menu. Even when animals have good reason to fret, they don’t. I have yet to open a closet door without my cat immediately darting in as though he’d never seen it before, though he’d just been in there half an hour earlier. Once inside, he refuses to respond to my calls to come out, and I’m not about to get down on my hands and knees and go feeling around behind the laundry basket to try to find him. So eventually and inevitably I will simply close the door and walk away. Does he fret and worry that I will forget about him and that he may be in there forever? He may not fret about it but I inevitably do, wondering how long it will be before he begins a plaintive mewling to be released. The fretting mounts until I stop what I’m doing, go to the closet, and let him out until the next time.

Fretting certainly does not respond to logic. We know it’s pointless. We know that whatever we’re fretting about will resolve itself one way or the other without the fretting. But still we do it.

A case of “simple pleasures,” I guess.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from Untreed Reads and Amazon; it's also available as an audible book from Amazon/

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