It’s New Year’s Eve. What, Me Worry?

by Kerry Dougherty

When I was a kid, my mother said I worried too much.

“Consider the lilies of the field,” she’d say, taking a drag on a Pall Mall before paraphrasing Scripture. “They neither toil nor spin, yet the Bible says God gives them beautiful blossoms.”

“So cut it out, and just relax,” she’d say, as she stubbed out a cigarette and began to gnaw on her cuticles.

Anxiety came naturally to me. It was in my DNA. Like my parents, I worried about everything. I stayed awake at night fretting about communism, nuclear war and what I could do to make the popular girls like me.

I still worry. About big things and small ones. Instead of communism I worry about socialism, AOC-style. I also worry about my kids. My granddaughter. And whether my Welsh Terrier will ever stop biting us.

And, this being the eve of a New Year, I’m a little worried about how I’ll remember that we are now living in the year 2022.

Truth is, I never did become accustomed to 2021. As recently as last week, I had to stop and think about where we were in the 21st century. I was positive it was 2017.

Naturally, I worried that this forgetfulness was a sign of dementia. You know, one day you think it’s still 1999, the next day you’re standing in the street trying to remember which house is yours. After that, it isn’t long before your loved ones take you for a little drive in the country and drop you off at a “retirement” home.

Then it hit me. I am not losing my mind. It’s easy to lose track of the year when our main cue for remembering it disappears.

I’m talking about the lost art of check-writing.

Think about it. Until a few years ago, we all spent January reminding ourselves to write the new year on our checks. We performed this exercise over and over until we just knew. We wrote checks for the electric bill, the gas bill, the mortgage and the car insurance. Checks for the doctor, the dry cleaner, the drugstore. Checks, checks and more checks.

The ones inked in early January inevitably featured a crossed-out date with little initials beside it. But by February, we’d happily adjusted.

No more.

Shoot, my kids don’t even have checkbooks. And frankly, I rarely need one.

Electronic bill paying and debit cards mean many of us no longer write paper checks. Certainly not as many as we did when every trip to the supermarket required that we whip out our checkbooks. In most respects, this is a good thing. Letter carriers don’t rupture their discs delivering big, fat bank statements with envelopes bulging with cancelled checks. And we don’t have to wait in tedious lines while shoppers pen $3 checks for cornflakes. (Sometimes we do and it gets on my last nerve.)

The downside is, we rarely write the date anymore. So, we’re more likely to get lost in time.

With or without checks, the years when something truly wonderful or terrible happened — births, deaths, marriages, catastrophes — are seared into our memory. The others? Not so much.

So here’s my wish for 2022: I hope this year will be memorable for all the good things that happen. I hope this is the year the fever breaks.

A year when our worries — about Covid and creeping socialism — turn out to be for nothing.

This column has been republished with permission from Kerry: Unemployed & Unedited.