What Russian Trappers Taught Me About Worry

Last night I woke up around 4AM with one of those damning sinky stomach feelings that only come to visit me in the middle of the night when I am least equipped to deal with them in a rational way. I noticed it was raining outside and this spun me into a tizzy because we had laundry drying on the porch balcony. Despite the fact that it was only a duvet cover – an item that we won’t need for at least another couple of weeks because I just put the clean one on our bed – I panicked.

Everything was wrong, and the wet duvet was emblematic of the chaos I create in my mind and the worry I can’t keep down.

I started worrying about, well, pretty much everything. Money. My ability to parent or to turn the stupid TV off. My ability to be a decent spouse who actually tells my husband what’s bothering me rather than bottling it all up and shaking it vigorously. My desire to contribute financially to my family but my lack of skills to do so by writing. I tossed and turned and very near barfed. Being awake in the middle of the night with things on my mind is by far my least favorite circumstance. In the middle of the night, Life should just leave me alone.

Before we went to bed last night, B and I watched “Happy People”, a documentary by Werner Herzog that chronicles fur trappers in Siberia. We started watching it fairly late so we only intended to make it halfway through, but it was so fascinating that we finished it. As you might imagine, the life of a trapper is not an easy one. He is essentially on his own in the wilderness for several months of the year, only coming back to visit his family for the Christmas holiday. But these trappers would have it no other way. They are in tune with the pulse of life and have learned to trust in their self-reliance. (Or at least fake it.)

These trappers have a predictable rhythm to their lives that I covet. They see themselves in their profession and even if they do worry about their survival (which they must, right?), they seem to know that they’ll be OK because they trust themselves and God.

Last night when I woke up, trust was the furthest thing from my mind. I felt naked and hot. I felt like I will never be enough or do enough. I felt like a failure.

But here’s the thing: against all odds, I fell back asleep after only an hour or so. And it’s still raining, but I have left the duvet cover on the porch. I told B what was bothering me, and he didn’t hold my worry against me like I always fear he will.

I am learning to put more stock in the love that surrounds me. I have a long way to go, but I’m trying. This love that I’ve found in my family and parenthood are my trapping skills. They will help me survive the winter.

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