“Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow. It only saps today of its joy.” ~Leo Bucaglia
As I stood on the street corner, tears streaming down my face, I called friends for confirmation that what I had just been told wasn’t true.
My meeting with my “friend” had gone horribly wrong. And when I say gone wrong, that’s because she was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
But what if she wasn’t wrong?
What if her words, which stung so badly that I couldn’t stop myself from crying publicly, were true?
Two weeks prior to this fateful day, three families had gotten together for what was supposed to be a wonderful reunion of friends and a celebration of the beginning of summer.
One family lives on a beautiful property with a huge man-made pond. Spending time at their house is just the way you would envision the perfect childhood summer.
With acres of green grass and a beautiful blue sky as a backdrop, you hold onto a rope, swing off a landing, fly through the air, and plunge into the pond. The sound of birds chirping tickles your ears, and the smell of fresh air fill your lungs.
Ah, the idyllic beginning to a wonderful summer.
Since we would be outside, it seemed the perfect place to bring our dog, Sunshine. Sunshine is part Australian Shepard, which means she has spent many an afternoon desperately trying to herd my kids together.
As the afternoon progressed, the kids ran around. Sunshine barked and barked and barked some more. My son was so anxious that she would run off.
Several times at home, Sunshine had escaped through the front door. Although we always caught her, the moments watching her chasing squirrels, oblivious to our offers of treats, were a little nerve-wracking for me and my son!
At one point on that day with friends, someone undid Sunshine’s leash, and she raced off! This created confusion and worry, and I feared a meltdown from my son was inevitable.
The idyllic day was not turning into the wonderful reunion and quiet, lazy afternoon I had imagined. Turning to my friend for help, I asked if she could drive my family home so I could leave with my son and Sunshine. I was worried about what might happen otherwise.
“Of course,” she said.
Because that’s what friends do; they help you when you need them.
Fast forward, three days later I receive an email from this same friend, offering to talk about the afternoon. I agreed, not knowing how this one day would forever change my life.
As I arrived at the coffee shop, my friend was seated concentrating on a crossword puzzle. I sat down still so unassuming, still so naïve. And that’s when she dropped the bomb.
“All this chaos and nervousness is created by you. You are the one creating all this in your family and even your dog.”
Every bone in my body shook with fear. My stomach was in a knot. My heart was shattering into fragments as I considered the possibility that I was doing this to my family and even my dog.
So when she looked at her watch, I suggested, since she obviously seemed pressed for time why don’t we just call it a day. She agreed and left. That was the last we would speak for two years.
If you let go a little, you will have a little peace. If you let go a lot, you will have a lot of peace. ~Ajahn Chah
I couldn’t stop crying for hours. I wondered, could this be true? Certainly I wasn’t doing this consciously.
I began to listen to my speech, and noticed it was loaded with words that I thought were conveying love, but were actually filled with warnings, anxiety, and fear.
Be careful! Are you sure you should do that? No, let’s not try that.
I began to watch other mothers and how they were parenting. How I envied the ones who so easily let their kids go off on their own without one reminder of safety!
The rest of that summer I did an experiment. While on vacation at the beach, I held back from saying, “Be careful in the ocean,” or “Don’t go out so far!”
Instead, with lips sealed, I smiled and waved to my kids as they bobbed up and down in the ocean water. I tried different activities that pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Not only did I try them, I even enjoyed!
So maybe, just maybe, she had a point.
Over time, I’ve tried to watch my words. Even when I’m nervous or scared I try to say something positive or just remain quiet. I still watch other parents to see how they interact with their kids.
I watch in awe, and yes, with envy too, as these other parents, with no words of fear or warnings, let their children learn from getting hurt or making mistakes.
Over time, I’ve come to realize my friend had a valid point.
In the beginning, her words cut a hole straight to my heart. In truth, that’s what I needed in order to take action to make changes.
It hasn’t been easy. Everyday I have to remind myself to offer vital precautions, and withhold the words that would only create unnecessary fear in my kids. But each day I’m learning to forgive myself when I slip.
I think my family and I are doing better for the message my friend conveyed to me that day.
In the end, I let go of my words peppered with fear and anxiety and I gained a little peace. My family gained a lot, as well.
I hope you too can let go of anything that might be causing you unnecessary worry or anxiety. There’s a joy you can only experience when you learn to let go.
Photo by Josh Pesavento