Monday, February 13, 2006

Everyone Should Have a Worry Monkey

In another lifetime I lived for several years in a bamboo hut overlooking the sea surrounding a small island that I called home. When I moved there I thought I was beginning a career in community development but what I mostly did was get sick. Dengue Fever, Typhoid, Amoebiasis and myriad other tropical bugs plauged my immune system. In my native habitat I am a relatively healthy speciman but when I plopped myself down in the middle of paradise I also, apparently, put out the welcome mat for every germ on the island looking for a bloodstream.

When I first arrived it was suggested to me that I hire a housekeeper who would do my cooking, cleaning and laundry. Being the sort who imagines herself relatively self-suffcient, I demured, thinking that it was hardly necessary. After providing the locals with a week's worth of amusement over my attempts to do laundry (in the creek) and to haul my drinking and cooking water up the mountainside (now I understood why that particular hut with the stunning view was made available to me), Baby was dispatched by them to be my "assistant". It was understood that, being American, I had strange ideals about civil equality and, while I wouldn't feel right about having a housekeeper, I could definately use, um, help.

Baby turned out to be a very useful and welcome addition to my household. She helped me navigate and negotiate. And, while I'm not a real girly-girl, there was the matter of those big-ass, jumping spiders that even the cat didn't want to go near. She also took care of me when I was sick. Which was often.

One particular illness struck me at the end of a long and unhealthy year. On the third day I became alarmed that my fever was so high and unremitting and I set out for the hospital in a nearby city -- over an hour away by boat and then taxi. The doctors there told me that it was a virus and that the only thing to do was go home and wait it out. Two days later things had not changed I was hallucinating and spent a lot of time in a deep, fever-induced, sleep. I told Baby in earnest that I just wanted to die.

Two hours later my fever was completely gone and I was, for the first time in five days, asking for food. What happened in that two hour interval is something that I find quite interesting.

After telling Baby that I wanted to die she shushed me, told me to put on some fresh clothes, that she would change my bed and that I would feel much better soon. Unbeknownst to me she then took my sweat-soaked shirt to the local healer's house to ask for a "cure". After performing a ceremony the healer gave Baby coconut oil to burn beneath the house so that I would inhale the vapors and a medicinal ointment that she used to give me a sponge bath.

I only found out about Baby's trip to the healer a few weeks later when I found what remained of my shirt, which had been shredded to burn the coconut oil, in her room. When I asked her about it she reluctantly told me what she had done. She hadn't wanted to tell me because she thought I might not understand. "Baby," I told her, "the only thing I don't understand is why you waited five days!"

I can't explain why some things happen in this world. A lot of it is just beyond our knowing. Perhaps my fever had already ran its course and would have receeded without the healer's intervention. Or maybe I was truely "healed". Maybe Baby's belief in what she was doing was powerful enough to tip the scales in my favor.

Estee, from My Son's Autism, writes: "There is not one person with autism who hasn’t told me that there was someone believing and pushing them to succeed (and that success is different for everyone). " Above all, it is my role to be that person for Oliver; to tip the scales in his direction as much as possible, and to remember the incredible impact that we have on one another-- not just by what we say and do, but by what we believe.

And to help me remember how counter-productive fear can be, I have this monkey.

As you can see, a crack right down the middle threatens to break him in half but for the strength of his arms holding his head together. The Worry Monkey has made the rounds among a group of my friends; each of us claiming him in time of need, heaping our own worries on top of his. A few months ago I called up the monkey-keeper and said that it was time for him to come home.

I really need this monkey now so I can't go around lending him out anymore. But if you are in need of a place to put your worries, I invite you cast them on him from afar.

Go ahead. Try it.


  1. Christine, thank you for this post. It's just what I needed today. What an interesting life you've lived. Where were you??? Glad your monkey has found it's home again.

  2. Christine,
    I had Dengue Fever when I was four right before my parents left Cuba. Funny enough, just last night I was thinking about that and how I've never spoken to anyone who even had a clue as to what Dengue Fever was, and here you are blogging!

    I love this post. And I really truly beleive that a good part of our beautiful children's accomplishments will possible because of the faith we have that they will be just fine.


  3. NO WAY! That story is awesome! I guess I'm a firm believer in anything and everything... I need all the help I can get.

  4. Ok...send worry monkey vibes my way! Great story!!


  5. Thanks for sharing your monkey with us. I feel less anxious already.

  6. I keep a certain good book close by on the bookshelf behind my desk and just seeing the cover (bright, deep pink) assuages worry.

  7. Awesome story, Thank God for Baby!I wear a bracelet that has a lot of inspirational words on it like "believe, love, trust". It helps me remember what is important and to stay focused. I plan on wearing it to Gabe's IEP in the fall.


  8. i'm casting to the monkey right now. funny--he really looks like a repository for fear! look at his expression!