Tuesday, February 16, 2010


When we lived in caves, we were hunters, gatherers, foragers, pillagers, and, at times, we became prey ourselves. The “daily grind” consisted of getting to the point of laying our head on the cave floor alive at the end of the day. I wonder how we slept back then, without Tempurpedic pillows and white noise machines. I suspect we slept well. Even without a fleece blankie or a nice glass or two of Shiraz.

I think of this because I woke up this morning with a gnawing anxiety in my stomach. And I couldn’t think of a single specific thing to be anxious about. Sure, I had things to do. Sure, I have a toddler at home and that’s work. Sure, I have obligations, duties, societal pressures, oil changes and the need to make sure I choose the right deductible on my car insurance to spread risk accordingly. But I had no bad news awaiting me. I didn’t have to go into the hospital for chemo, nor did I have to finagle myself into a wheelchair in order to go to the bathroom. My house was warm, my bills were paid, my wife loves me and my child adores me.

It’s precisely the absence of real drama that has me so nervous.

If a sabertoothed tiger came at Anne and Anton, I’d have no problem with knowing what to do. I’d instinctively attack, defend, perhaps die. But there would be no ambiguity.

In the mundane – meaning, the civilized, routinized world in which I live – there is an abundance of ambiguity. I suspect by the time I finish my coffee and crank up the Chevy, I’ve faced more choices than my caveman ancestor did in a year. I don’t like all these damn choices.

There is terror in the mastery of the mundane. And that’s why my stomach hurts.