March 21, 2011

Avoiding Worry

Considering the fact that I was raised by a mother with about every common phobia that can afflict a woman (water, heights, fire, dirt, germs, leaving the house), I'm not much of a worrywart. I don't check the stove dozens of times before I leave the apartment. If I worry that I didn't lock my car, I probably didn't. And if my bank account is showing a negative balance, I remain remarkably calm.

I attribute some of that to my ability to intellectually cast aside any genetic tendencies towards obsessive-compulsive behavior, depression, psychosis, schizophrenia...But you can't always just decide not to worry about something, just as you can't necessarily refuse to regret something. Sometimes, you have to be proactive, and do something to prevent it from happening altogether.

There are entire industries predicated on providing zero service for the majority of their consumer base except for peace of mind. People sign up for warranties, service plans, insurance policies, some with relatively high premiums, and then never actually use them. In the case of car insurance, usually the deductibles are so high, it's not even worth claiming a relatively minor repair on your insurance, so you just pay cash anyway. I paid for dental insurance for years and never used it because they wouldn't reimburse me for seeing my dentist, and I refused to switch. But it was there, just in case, something horrible happened.

But the problem is, when you're uninsured (as I was for two years), you worry about everything, even if nothing actually happens. Did you just sneeze? Have I washed my hands enough? Is that bus going to actually stop before it hits me? Is this taxi driver going to kill us all? Am I getting a sore throat?

Now that I actually have had health insurance (and renter's insurance, and auto insurance...) for six weeks, I haven't used it once. And I haven't worried once.

The one thing I do worry about is worrying too much. Worry takes too much time away from other things I want to do and focus on.

So this weekend, I signed up for AAA, just in case. It's not that expensive, and driving without it, I wasn't able to fully enjoy my new car (even though it's already succumbed to a few slings and arrows in the short time I've had it). I wouldn't go hiking without a compass, a GPS, or a cell phone, even though I rarely get so lost that I need to use them (and even though there's rarely a good cell signal wherever I climb alone). And so I didn't want to drive - around LA, or off to other far-flung, remote places - without knowing someone could come rescue me if I got into trouble.

I live enough of this life alone, self-sufficient, on my own. It's OK to ask for help every now and then.

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