The Playroom: The queen of angst

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

I am one of the reigning queens of angst.

I have 14 boxes of elbow macaroni stored in plastic bins under the basement stairs. The food stores are there so that when the smart bomb goes off downtown, we can still have macaroni and cheese for dinner.

In some disaster fantasy coping mechanism I seem to have made up, the knowledge that I have 14 boxes of macaroni and cheese under the basement stairs comforts me. Until my husband asks scientific questions such as,

“Well, how are you going to boil water?”

I tell him the radioactive heat generated from the explosion will boil the toilet water, so I’m not concerned.

“You are planning to make macaroni and cheese in the toilet after the smart bomb goes off?”

“Yes, yes I am.”

I am anxious about everything. I worry about normal stuff like flu epidemics, child molesters and bad guys crawling in the windows at night. But I also get kind of worked up about not-so-normal stuff like escalators. And then I have these combustion-specific anxieties about the furnace exploding, the smart bomb going off downtown, or my husband blowing up in an airplane every time he takes a business trip (which is basically every week).

The positives about anxiety aren’t that great, and I can’t say they balance out the negatives like sleep issues and a general malaise of being more stressed out than I should be. But we anxious people do have a couple pluses in our pockets.

For starters, we always have flashlights. We are your go-to person any time there ever is some sort of natural disaster, like a big storm taking out the electricity. Just stop by the home of your most anxious friend and you are sure to find a generator and extra freezer space, as well as extension cords, a literal stockpile of batteries with a tester, and an array of campsite lanterns and crank-operated radios.

In addition to disaster preparedness, we are very good at kits: first aid kits, car kits, bear kits and snake-bite kits. We always have plenty of ipecac syrup in the linen closet, and we look both ways before we cross the street every time, providing very good safety role models for our children. We are also great supporters of the insurance industry, both the financial and the ecclesiastical.

Yet another endearing quality of my anxious set? We tend to be control freaks. That’s okay if you are a consultant or a project manager. I can co-chair a fundraiser and micromanage volunteers like nobody you’ve ever seen (well, except for my friend Sarah).

Despite all of our positive attributes, it has to be said, we can be rather annoying family members. The Christmas lottery for Secret Santa is best left to others. And don’t get mad if you ask the anxious one to host Thanksgiving. We will script out the entire thing with three-ring binders filled with annotated recipes and spreadsheets with details from shopping to prepping vegetables to who is going to be watching the baby after Grandma has her second glass of wine.

At certain points in our marriage my husband has termed me a fatalist for always worrying too much. But I can host a great Thanksgiving dinner, and, sometimes, even he needs a flashlight.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at