Last year, on Christmas Eve (so, in 2012 heading into 2013), I talked very openly, in front of a camera, about my fears – both as an individual, and as a mother. A friend of mine produced a short video from our interview, and shared it with his church. In that video, I had declared 2013 the year that I get ahead of my fears. The year I surrender. The year that I finally resolve my anxiety. And while I truly had every intention of doing just that – I didn’t.
Here we are, the start of 2014, and my fears feel bigger and louder than ever. At times, I feel controlled by my anxiety over the very things that I can’t control. Mostly, I feel paralyzed by the unforeseen. Rather than feeling hopeful and excited for what’s just over the horizon, I quietly obsess over the impending doom that must be on the other side. The craziest part, is that when I voice my fears, even I giggle over their absurdity. And yet, I can’t shut it down. Can’t turn it off.
I have a call scheduled next week. I’m going to talk with a professional, whose sole mission is to remove the barriers that stand between us and a joyful experience with our children. Fear is a huge roadblock between me and my girls. While it doesn’t often hold me back from trying new things with them, it always colors my perception of our experience. I must literally force myself, at times, to move through an adventure – working through my worries and doubts, to finally be delivered on the other side. Each time I go through this exhausting drill, I think about how much better it would be if I were free from this ritual to begin with. What if I could more readily say “Yes!” to my girls, without hesitation. What if all of my actions taught them to savor each moment?
This morning Bitzy had her 2 year well-check. Her pediatrician, whom I love, asked, “Do you have any concerns?” and I began talking about this latest flu going around. I said, “I’ve heard of people dying from it, and I just need to know that that won’t happen to us.” In retrospect, I know that he couldn’t make that guarantee for me. But, as parents, I think we often look for the loophole, the pre-existing conditions, the doctor’s mistakes, the other parent’s fault, in order to drive a wedge between us and them. We are saying, “tell me why that was an anomaly, and why I am safe.” It seems we always want to know just that – the cold hard facts that will separate us from a shared fate.
As we continued talking, I said, “It seems to me that the viruses are getting worse every year,” to which he replied, “No, not really.” And from there, we launched into long conversation about the media, and the ways our fears are played. I think it’s important to note that this is a doctor who is well respected in his community. He’s not complacent in his field. He’s constantly learning – attending classes, seminars, talks, speaking on panels, offering lectures, etc. He has participated in, and learned from, cutting edge practices. In other words, he knows some things. So, while he rattled off some startling statistics about the flu, he also reminded me to keep everything in perspective. He reminded me that our news stations are looking for the anomalies amidst us. And then, they are reporting them with such conviction that we believe they’re trending toward the norm.
After Bitzy’s appointment, and while she was napping, I took a few minutes out to scroll through Facebook. And wouldn’t you know it, at least a handful of debates about immunizations. I typically don’t engage, or even read into such debates, because I’m comfortable with the decisions that we’ve made for our family – but today, I did. All of the comments I read were fueled by fear. Perhaps the only thing each opposing side has in common. It made me sad to see parents earnestly seeking the opinions of others, only to be bombarded by the fears of their responders. Most of those fears heavily coated in self-righteousness, rather than opinions cloaked in compassion.
How did we get here? How did we get to a place of such fear? It’s all around us. I know that we could debate for hours about the origins of such fear – and some would consider government conspiracies to be the blame, or the news, while others would point their fingers at pathetic gun laws, or the decline of morality and the rapid desensitization which follows. But, I feel like what matters most is how we reverse it? Can we reverse it? Can we take the fear out of our everyday lives and replace it with contentment, with presence in the moment, with joy?
That’s my theme for 2014. I feel like it’s the greatest, most lasting, most grounding thing that we can do for our children. To break free from the fear, and live courageously and boldly with compassion and genuine zest for life.