Just the Facts, Ma’am
I’ve got a terrible story stuck in my head. A story so awful, I don’t even want to write this sentence:
I am afraid my son might get sick, come to harm, or die.
Oh! I can’t even express how much I recoil at just seeing this in typeface. Because I am also afraid that by even giving voice to this fear, I will have somehow made it more likely to come true. I find myself itching to hit the delete key. Cancel, cancel! This fear is too horrible, too powerful, too evil to have out there in the world.
But when I can get a deep breath—actually doing so, here—I can remember that this fear, like most fears, is just a thought with the gloves off. By that, I mean a bully of a thought, a thought that will just beat me up if I let it.
That’s the key: if I let it. My thoughts—my fears–have exactly as much power over me and my life as I allow them to.
Can fear serve me? Sure. If I’m about to step into the path of a steamroller, the machine’s blaring horn and the shot of fear-induced adrenaline it produces will make the difference between my survival and my ending up a pancake.
But in this case, giving power to this particularly icky fear allows it to bully me into doing stuff I—and my son—hate. I hover. I nag. I cling. Ick. Ick, ick, ick.
So how’s that working out for me? Not so good. Because what I get from this behavior is, basically, more ick. Hovering, nagging and clinging don’t relieve my fear one iota—in fact, they feed it, making me feel more anxious with every bleated plea and command. Worse, they don’t do much to protect my son. My blurting nervously, “Stay safe!” as he leaves the house is no guarantee that he will be so.
The thing is, like all bullies, fear is also a coward. It’s surprisingly easy to back off simply by going toe to toe with it and letting it know that while you’ll be happy to use whatever factual information it has to provide, you won’t allow fear to push you around anymore.
Because inside each fear, there is fact, and there is fiction. In this case, the fact is that the day I became a mother, I signed up for the job of teaching my child everything I know about how to safely navigate the world and to self-care. The fiction here is that after having taught him as best I know to look out for himself, I have any further control over the matter. All the fear in the world will not give me a guarantee of my son’s well-being and happiness.
What are you afraid of? Can you look fear—even the biggest, scariest fears—in the face, and separate fact from fiction? Use the facts to take whatever action gets you the results you want. As for the fiction? Nothing more than a scary story.
And the thing about a story is, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Best of all, you get to decide when to turn the page.