There was once a woman who gathered worries as others gather flowers, beer steins or antique cars.
She lived in a pretty house with a pretty garden full of pretty flowers and scrumptious vegetables. She loved her beets and marrows and dahlias, but most of all she loved her worries. She couldn’t get enough of them.
She’d even borrow worries from friends, beg for their cast-off worries.
Word spread and soon people came from far and wide to give her their worries.
She kept the ones she liked best under her bed, in a rectangular wicker basket. Those worries she didn’t care for she burned on the bonfire on Saturday mornings when the wind was blowing in a southeasterly direction, away from her house.
She only gathered women’s worries. She made this decision reluctantly, but as she told herself, she did know her limits. Anyway, the men were perfectly capable of looking after themselves.
Every morning she sifted through the worries in her basket and decided which one she would concentrate on that day. Just until 6 p.m.
After 6 p.m. she chose a different set of worries. Evening and night worries were special and eventually she came to keep those in a separate container, this one a pottery vase decorated with red and purple vines.
When she eventually became experienced in discerning the particular nuances of worries, she began yet a third category – those for 3 – 5 a.m.
These worries were her special darlings because they were so intense, so exquisitely troublesome and painful.
Of course, the woman always worried about burglars – that someone would come to her house and steal her precious collection.
She pulled the blinds down over the windows so no-one could peep in. She was careful to receive all worry donations by her garden gate. From there people could only see her little house, her beautiful garden full of flowers and broccoli and carrots, and the huge pile of blackened ashes from the burned worries.
Inundated by worry donations, the pile of ashes grew higher and higher until there was a mighty mountain behind her house. She started a new one next to it and eventually another beside that. Another decade and the mountain range completely encircled the house.
People could no longer bring their worries to her. It was simply too much trouble to climb the mountain. She could hear them lamenting their worries on the other side and ground her teeth to stumps with longing.
The sunlight could no longer reach her garden. Her flowers and cabbages and green beans withered and died.
She grew pale and gaunt. She became so weak that all she could do was lie on the ground looking up at the clouds during the day, at the stars during the night.
In the deepest night the woman lay among her wilted vegetables and watched shooting star after shooting star flash across the black licorice sky.
One night at about 3.45 a.m., when she was feeling particularly weak, a shooting star – the largest and most brilliant – flashed down through the sky and landed on her chest.
“Oooooh,” she sighed, as it sparkled like a diamond. “How is it possible for anything to be so beautiful?”
Said the shooting star in a shimmering whisper: “Seeing as you find me so beautiful, I will grant you one wish. Are you ready? Wish now or forever hold your peace.”
“Oh dear,” worried the woman. “Suppose I make the wrong wish? Suppose I make one of those wishes that has a dark side and so I’ll end up worse off than I am now? Suppose…”
The star exploded into a chaotic shower of sparkles and disappeared.
I am an Olympic-class worrier – and there’s so much in the world to worry about right now – but I hope I don’t go this far!