A baby boomer worries about the worry gene

“Worry.” It’s a word that some of us think shouldn’t even be in the dictionary. Why worry? It’s not going to change the future. But baby boomer Larry Lefkowitz of Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, can’t avoid it. He says he worries about darned near everything. He says he is cursed with The Worry Gene.

I have a friend at my local gym who I have known for several years now who is the antithesis of me. It is strange how people so different can become friendly, but that seems to be the pattern for me for my whole life.

Larry Lefkowitz

I am average height, average weight, pale, and bald. My gym friend Jim is short, wiry, tan, and has a huge shock of shoulder-length gray hair, pulled back into a large ponytail. We are the same age, which is mid-60s. I have worked in front of a computer for 40 years, Jim is a carpenter. He has been married to the same lady for 38 years, I am single having divorced twice. I have children, he does not.

Okay, those are the basics. As we prepare for our senior years, we began discussing things like health insurance and longevity and what the government will give us back now that we have paid in a lifetime of insurance. While I worry about this, Jim thinks only of getting through his workout. That is as far as he is willing to plan or be concerned.

His attitude is quite the opposite of how I tread, for I worry about everything from now until the end. Jim laughs at me, and says he just goes with the flow, and I know he means it. I know his wife; she would vouch for this. I think to myself that this is a wonderful gift, to be unburdened from worry about every event and circumstance that has yet to unfold, and I wonder, why can I not be more like that?

The answers are myriad, I believe. Everything from the environment in which you grew up to the circumstances and experiences that affected your life shape your attitudes. But I also believe that there is something more diabolical at work here. I believe we possess a “worry gene.”

The WG is the little burr on the tooth of one of your cogs that makes that little ticking sound each time the gears try to mesh smoothly. It is what makes you worry about walking to the parking garage at the train station; the paranoia every time you make an online purchase; the certainty that you are the number on the short side of the ratio of flyer’s trips versus crashes.

The WG causes anxiety-swelling when a flu epidemic hits; when killer bees migrate from South America; when a meteor comes too close to Earth. And the WG, at this time of life, makes you sweat that you will outlive your income, however meager it might be.

Jim is not worried about any of these things — he does not seem to have a WG. When I ask him what he will do for income when he can no longer handle a circular saw, he smiles and says, “I don’t know. Whatever.” He will outlive me. He has no WG.

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