I woke up this morning–okay and every morning for the last 8 days–with a bad case of the “What If?”s. I’m feeling the familiar adrenaline run through my veins. It’s fear, of course. Of what could happen. Tomorrow. Next year. In ten years. The primitive, ape-like part of my brain that feeds on fear has handcuffed the sophisticated neo-cortex of my brain, so that with every new challenge, I’m hearing a “let’s get the hell out of here” reaction.
It started with Beyond Blue, the book. What if it doesn’t sell enough copies? Then we will have to sell our house and pull our kids from Catholic school. And I’ll never be able to get another book contract. And it will be the end of my writing career. Back to staying home full time with the kids, posting notices of a playgroup at my house at the local coffee shop and every house with a stroller outside because I was so lonely.
Then it morphed into parenting fears. A group of friends were talking about how catty girls get starting in second grade. “They make each other’s life hell!” one said. The friend with a 17-year-old chimed in, “That’s nothing compared to the drama in high school.” And she’s a good parent, a much better parent than me, at least I’ve always thought. “Little people, little problems,” I remembered someone saying to me when I was pregnant (Thanks for that!), “big people, big problems.” And that makes me panic because the first years of parenting were excruciating for me. With a kid who screamed bloody murder every three minutes for five years, I could never regain my composure. I was a mess. A complete, neurotic mess. And those are supposedly the easy years??????
But notice none of those things are happening right NOW. The sleep deprivation is, I hope, in the past. The teenage trials … they are ten years out. So I tell my ape brain to try and help me focus on the present, the only place where I can find peace. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the mindfulness expert and author of “Wherever You Go, There You Are,” writes this about staying in the now:
It is all too easy to remain on something of a fog-enshrouded, slippery slope right into our graves; or, in the fog-dispelling clarity which on occasion precedes the moment of death, to wake up and realize that what we had thought all those years about how life was to be lived and what was important were at best unexamined half-truths based on fear or ignorance, only our own life-limiting ideas, and not the truth or the way our life had to be at all.
What has helped me the most with this acute case of what-ifs has been two miracles stories I always forget about, but that were brought to my attention at the right time. In the miracle of the loaves and fish, the disciples were in a bit of a jam. They have to make two fish and five loaves of bread feed thousands of people. Jesus took the fish and loaves, blessed them, and the miracle happened: it fed upwards of 12,000 people (if you take into consideration the children and women with the 5,000 men).
In his first miracle at Cana, the wedding hosts run out of wine. Mary says, “Do whatever Jesus says,” and when the servers fill some jugs with water, what they taste a few minutes later is no hydrogen oxygen combination (H20). They guzzle down wine that’s finer than the stuff they ran out of.
What does all this say to me?
Chill out. Breathe deeply. Just concentrate on the moment before you. You can’t know what’s ahead, and even if you did, you wouldn’t be able to see how it will work out. You’ll be okay. Trust that you’ll be okay.