Any of you who know me well or have read even a few of my stories know that I am absolutely, ALWAYS rational, level-headed, and have NEVER been dramatic, or let a crazy idea run wild. While none of what I just said is probably really true, I will honestly say I have never considered myself a big worrier. I don’t know why? Maybe I just didn’t get that gene? There have been times that I have been concerned that maybe I just don’t care enough or as much? Surely not? I don’t know? Or maybe it is just that I feel my neighbors and friends and family worry enough about me and the welfare of my children and my husband that I just don’t see the need? Whatever the reason, I have always counted it a blessing.
Now I’m not saying that I never worry. For example, there was a time this summer when I found myself the foreman of an under-aged, one link, chain gang supervising repayment of his societal debt by picking up sticks in my neighbor’s yard. I’m not going to get into all the dirty details but let’s just say that my neighbor received so much mud in the mail from my 6-year-old son that the mail carrier would be challenged to slide in even one or two standard sized envelopes along with his delivery. You see, during the fall out of this entire scenario I couldn’t help but think, “what in all creation could be so wrong with my kid for him to find this type of vandalism so entertaining”? I went on to worry about the severity of his mess-uped-ness as I had to correct and remind him more than once that he wasn’t picking up sticks in our neighbors yard voluntarily or because he was such an awesome neighbor but because he was being punished! I was however able to chalk this up as a real life learning opportunity and also had a new car game called “Vandalism or Good Clean Fun?” that I planned on playing with him regularly.
I also had a moment of worry just as the new school year was beginning and my oldest was starting middle school! Everyone was running around, getting school supplies, and talking about getting their back to school hair cuts and stuff. Sophia likes to wear her hair long and straight. Actually, really long. Sometimes long enough that I wonder if kids say, “yeah, you know Sophia, the girl with the long hair?” And I imagine, “Oh, yeah”, is always their quick response. Well, our regular beautician didn’t have availability for a few weeks but the obsessive-compulsive side of me decided that there was no way she could darken the door of her new school without a haircut. It just couldn’t happen.
Well? Do you know where was on our list of errands that day? Wal-Mart, the one stop shop. Oh yes I did. With all ears and eyes available we decided that we were going to get “a nice, little healthy trim”. Then, I secretly and silently sent the beautician a message that the mother was considering a solid 3 – 4 inches “a healthy trim”. I made sure my facial expressions and hand gestures were clear so I knew she was picking up what I was putting down. Now before y’all start thinking that wasn’t nice, I need you to: 1. Admit that you have not put your beautician in an awkward position and 2. realize that even minus this 3 – 4 inches my daughter would pass as a modest mermaid if she were a mermaid in real life. However, to hear her go on and on dramatically in a way that she has never had modeled for her, I began to feel concerned that she was developing an irrational relationship with her hair and that it was bringing her some kind of unhealthily, weird security. I began thinking about scheduling weekly trimming sessions that we could lovingly call “Hairapy” where only minuscule lengthage would be removed. I may even possibly make my beautician, once again, feel awkward by telling her to pretend if she wanted; of course reminding her that I would still pay her. I just thought this could be a healthy option to avoid the possibility that my daughter could be the special guest on Oprah in 20 years, nervously awaiting a free makeover. I couldn’t bear to think about seeing her, sitting on the couch there with Oprah, talking about her last haircut when she was 11, at Wal-Mart. I then reminded myself that she is simply a little girl who likes her (beautiful) long hair and that…is…it. I went on to conclude that she should enjoy it now because she will probably have a “Mom do” when she is 50.
I’ll never forget one January day when I stepped out of the doors of Wal-Mart and was hit with a gust of bitter cold that was filled with painful snow flurries. Haley was about 2 months old and snuggled warmly in her car seat carrier and Harrison, recently 3, was in boots, hats, and over-sized coat tramping along. I was without all that Harrison had but wasn’t too concerned and almost found the Arctic wind refreshing to my hormonal heat strokes. I had that momentary, non-threatening, Mary Poppins’ like moment and said to myself, “Let’s see. Now where did I park”? The problem is I never had that “Oh, yes! Right over there”, moment that you always hope follows. With infant, who was beginning to scurry around like she was starting to think about telling me, as well as anyone in a 20 yard radius, that she was wanting to eat, and son, who was handicapped by all his winter wear trying his best to follow me, I struggled to push a full cart with one hand, through a slush filled parking lot, while holding my key fob over my head with the other, pushing it repeatedly and yelling “KEEP UP!”.
When we found our car I noticed that the driver’s door was wide open? That vision was almost the straw that broke my postpartum, sleep-deprived, pretending that I’m functioning well…back. You see, I had gotten in the habit of always making sure that I closed my door last knowing I was fully capable of locking one of my children in the car with my keys or my keys in my car with us out in the cold or some other uncomfortable combination involving my keys and kids that would leave me in a scenario that I didn’t care to deal with. I hurriedly loaded up my children and my groceries, trying not to think about how cognitively jacked I truly must be.
While dusting out the little bit of snow, that had gathered gently, in my front seat, I decided that once inside I would calmly sit and think about all the cars that I have seen abandoned in my lifetime with the door wide open and that would make me feel better. Well, I was unable to convince myself that I simply needed to work on being more observant and thought I would call my mother. She has some magical way of fooling me into believing that I am completely normal even after I tell her a story like that! It is hard to imagine, however, that she doesn’t get off the phone and immediately report to my dad, “I really don’t think Susan should be driving our grandchildren around”.
But this last week I found myself dealing with some real worry that I couldn’t shake. It felt like I had bought a one way ticket, on an Express train to center city Worryville and I couldn’t get off. On my way there, I read a magazine, that had been placed conveniently in the seat pocket in front of me titled “Worst Case Scenarios”; it was quite worn and the train was packed. The train attendants conveniently offered an array of snacks so you could easily switched back and forth between sweet and salty but I didn’t have an appetite at all. For me, a lack of appetite was worrisome it itself and was another reflection of the severity of my worry.
You see, my little guy seemed absolutely fine. FINE. However, for nearly 2 weeks, little, painless glands in his neck and groin kept getting bigger? What could be wrong with him? I racked my brain and came up with nothing. NOTHING?! I even considered Harrison’s recent trip to Morgantown with Rick, my hubs, to watch a WVU football game. You see, when they came home, Rick nonchalantly told me that while they were touring some of the new stadium renovations, that I’m sure are being funded by the “donation” we are forced to send along with cost of our season tickets, he turned around and saw Harrison holding a pigeon!
“Excuse me?”, that’s what I said too!
“Yeah, a pigeon!” he repeated, with slightly more drama.
“Was it all flapping and trying to get away?” I said, searching for some answers.
“No. It was just sitting there all nestled in his arms”, he replied, seeming surprised as well.
I wanted to ask him if he thought this seemed like a good parenting activity or if he made him wash his hands twice but I was too distracted by the image in my head of my boy who, minus the yellow oblong head, with tuft of black hair on top, and horizontally striped shirt, must have looked exactly like Bert in the park on Sesame Street with his pigeon friends.
I knew down deep that during this friendly embrace he hadn’t contracted some bizarre type of pigeon flew but what could it be?! I could only convince myself that whatever he had contracted was something bad and dangerous and I was “plum et up” with it. Have you been there? Do you know what I mean? You lack focus due to bombarding thoughts, your daydreams seem like nightmares, and you can’t get anything done other than the things you know you shouldn’t? For example, repetitively searching Google with all different combinations of words and phrases and you’re sure that any of the benign outcomes that you read about are surely not for you?
It was Monday morning, and I got a text message stating that my first patient had cancelled for the day. I was ready for work, in a quiet house, and with nothing pressing to do for 45 minutes. I decided to sit and read, knowing that always makes me feel better. My reading prompted thoughts of a few people I have known in my lifetime who have truly experienced worst case scenarios, yet handled them with an almost strange calmness. Their face didn’t reflect a mind that was running wildly out of control trying to answer all the what ifs. It was the peace of God… that transcends, surpasses, or goes beyond the limit of understanding that was guarding, shielding, and protecting their heart and their mind…and they were “plum et up” with it!
I then cast my worry over, exhausted from carrying it, and felt an immediate sense of ease. I’m not going to lie. I did experience one fleeting moment of “oh my gosh! I’m going to throw up!” as the doctor examined him. In the same way, I’m sure those individuals mentioned above, had momentary lapse of faith; especially when the peace that was delivered came without a change in circumstance. But they, like me, had remembered their way out and were no longer prisoners or slaves to their worry…but free.
My mantra when worry tries to take over…
And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
I know not the way God leads me, but well do I know my Guide. Martin Luther
By the way, Harrison’s rampant case of extremely rare pigeon flu turned out to be everyday strep throat that I’m sure he shared with many before being diagnosed. And… while he exhibited no symptoms (other than progressively growing lymph nodes covering his entire body which is the first sign of pigeon flew I’m sure) his younger sister did!!!