Upon awakening, I am already fretting. Before the curtains of my lids draw back, allow light to penetrate the retinae. Worry works inside me before I can register the pale yellow of bedroom walls or hear conversations of birds beyond the window.
Sometimes I come to consciousness still clinging to the tail of some particular vexation, some not-quite-random selection from the perpetual list of disquiet—mortgage payments, lost love, real and imagined slights. Other times my only evidence is tightness in my jaw, constriction in my chest. Some mornings it is simply a dull ache in mood, as if I’ve awakened not into daylight but into shadow.
I’ve stopped setting my alarm to NPR. Though I miss the grave but reassuring friendship of Cokie and Nina, I’ve lost the willingness to enter my day to the tune of body counts, political scandals, the latest epidemic, another species gone extinct. Even with the speakers silent, radio waves still beam these warnings through our planet’s atmosphere. We are bombarded by frequencies of fear.
In the world beyond my window, a dog barks. A rooster crows. Children are pulled sleepily along sidewalks to school by their disheveled mothers. Truck shifts gears to climb the hill. Chainsaw whines. Someone blasts rap music, bass turned high.
Beneath this surface layer of sound, there are others. Wind stirs chimes. Cedar waxwings broadcast their good news. Sapote tree drops fruit onto back patio; it splatters, a pulp bomb. The inexorable march of ants. Imperceptible sighs as grass pushes skyward. Deeper still, the roiling metal of earth’s core.
Deeper still into my own body. Listen. Soft bellows of lungs. Faithful pulse keeps time. Drip of enzymes into the duodenum. Sparks of synapse crackle.
The music of everyday miracles persists as sun climbs sky. But why do I hear—not chimes or birdsong—only dull drone of anxiety, neuronal radio tuned to cataclysm?
Why are not my arms outstretched to greet the day, instead of my jaw clenched to withstand it? Why the heart curled into fist of dread?