Wendy Bartlett is a reader from Ohio. She has two cats and one boy, and a great job as a book buyer at a large library system. She actually got the nerve up to say hello to her favorite writer, Laurie R. King, at this year's Bouchercon, and is very much looking forward to this year's Malice Domestic.
Chicken Little’s got nothing on me
by Wendy Bartlett
Kaye had a great blog a few weeks ago about a “red crayon friend” who betrayed her trust. She wrote about tackling harder subjects on Meanderings and Muses this year and invited us to do the same. It just happened that I read her blog on a night when I was scared enough to be peeled off the ceiling, so the suggestion came at the perfect moment.
Like Kaye said about her subject, it would surprise most of my friends to know that anything scares me. I’m pretty tough, pretty independent and pretty cool under fire. But a couple of things scare me on a fairly regular basis, and try as I might, decade after decade; I just don’t outgrow ‘em.
The dumbest? Household emergencies. Yes, you read that right. Not heights, not the bad guys breaking in, not financial calamity, but those unexpected household disasters that my former sister-in-law and still very good friend, Nancy, refers to as “surprises”. “I love home owning,” she says. “but I’m tired of the surprises.” Amen and hallelujah.
As I sit here, the pipe running to (from?) the hot water tank is dripping in my laundry room, and when I saw it, it scared me silly. Like blood-run-cold-I’m-this-far-away-from-tears-scared. Those pipes burst, right? What if it does that? What if water goes all over my family room and laundry room and it costs me a zillion dollars to fix and clean it up, not that I ever have the money to pay for this stuff, and what if I have to take a zillion days off work to cope with it? I can’t do that. I have nine million things to take care of at work! What if it ruins everything?? What if it’s so bad it can’t be fixed?
When the going gets tough, my catastrophizing goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds. You name it, I can imagine it happening. I can imagine it a hundred times worse than anybody you know can imagine it. And you’ll have a hell of time convincing me that those fears are groundless.
And what’s weird? This doesn’t happen in any other arena. I don’t do this when my kid is sick, or they’re laying people off at work and everyone is jumpy. I’m super-duper cool, calm and collected. In fact, I’m the one that calms everybody else down. But a crack in the plaster, and I’ve got the roof caving in on my head. You just wait. Chicken Little and I will be right in the end, you’ll see.
Not to go all zodiac-al or anything, but my friend Pat Browning would assert that as a Cancerian, I am all about my home. For us, our home is the heart of our existence, not just somewhere we hang out after work. A disaster happening to our home might not be our worst nightmare, but it’s a security destroyer, that’s for sure.
And I’m post-feminist enough to cheerfully admit that one of the best things about being married—which I used to be--was that dripping pipes were HIS department. I was in charge of sick kids, dysfunctional relatives (both his and mine), money, and cooking. He was in charge of Little League, school fundraisers, lawns, and Scary Home Repairs. I was okay with the sports. The fundraisers are harder, because I’m too shy to ask for money, and too overwhelmed to motivate my kid to do it. The lawn? Hate it! Hate mowing, hate gardening, hate leaves, but have learned to do all of it, with varying degrees of success. But the Scary Home Repairs? If I live to be a hundred in this house, a leaking anything will still scare me out of my wits. Hasn’t gotten a bit easier, all this time.
So what did I do? I did what any grown up independent smart home-owning woman would do. I emailed my dad. Now, unfortunately, my dad is in Florida, and at this hour, probably in bed. But he’s also addicted to his computer, so I’m fairly sure by the time I get home from church tomorrow, I’ll have an answer.
Hopefully, before the pipes burst.