Thursday, November 29, 2012

One of Those Worst Case Scenario People

This past July 3rd, I was sitting in Bailey Hall, finishing up a graduate course with six other fellow writers. I shared that I was dreading our family’s road trip which we were embarking on that evening. My classmates tried to get me to focus upon the excitement of the adventure my husband, children, and I were about to have--there would be new sights, chances to talk and bond together, after all. Although I acknowledged this, I anticipated the cost of the trip, the squabbles my husband and I would have on the road, the nerves I’d deal with when our car would be on busy highways, my fear of an accident. Hearing me, our class leader asked, “Oh, are you one of those worst-case-scenario people?”

I could not help but to answer, “Yes”.

In the four months since that day I have given that question a lot of thought. I’ve returned to my childhood remembering how my Mom and I would gang up on my Dad when he’d say, “You know, I’m not going to be around forever”. Mom, knowing this was not a statement appropriately comforting to say in front of a child, would remark in a teasing way, “Why?! Where are you going?!” and laughing together she and I would lighten the mood by suggesting vacation spots for Dad or asking if he knew something we did not about the end of the world and God’s plans. It was odd conversation for sure, but given that my parents were 40 years old at the time of my birth, I realize now that Dad was very much aware of our age difference. I think he was only trying to prepare me in case something happened to him. Nothing did. He's now approaching his 85th birthday. Dad has always been a worrier. I am my father’s daughter.

Before my marriage, Eric and I went on an Engaged Encounter Weekend. At the sessions couples were encouraged to write and then talk with their partners about a variety of subjects--money, children, sex, employment, religion, etc. At one point in the weekend we were encouraged to discuss our fears. I was hit with one that felt incredibly ruthless, the fear of death (either his or mine) before our wedding day. It was an irrational fear, but I could not shake the feeling that everything I wanted in life--marriage, decades of love, our own family--might be taken from me before it all even started. I’m only grateful now, 24 years after my wedding day, three children later, that Eric stood by his obviously neurotic fiance that day when I broke into tears, needing to be reassured that I had no reason to fear losing what was good in my life. (I am thankful also that on my wedding day I was worry-free. Completely at peace and without any nerves at all, I enjoyed a beautiful ceremony, reception, and honeymoon. Thank God).

When my children were infants, I worried about SIDS when they went to bed at night. When they were toddlers I worried over them falling down the cellar stairs. I feared myself dying before a time when they would remember their mother. I went to sleep during thunderstorms planning how I could get everyone out of the house if lightning ignited a house fire. And now that they are 13, 17, and 20, I hold my breath when they are in a car without me. I hate driving in anything other than perfect road conditions, and although we did have a fun time on our family’s road trip in July, I saw every potential car crash when we navigated our way on the highways from here to North Carolina and back.

Although I wish it were not the case, and although I think I am a pretty positive and optimistic person in most areas of my life, I AM a worst case scenario kind of person when it comes to my fear of losing my husband and children. It isn’t a fun way to be, that is for sure, but it is as though I need to worry as a necessary precaution. Maybe if I worry over them, they’ll be safe. If I don’t worry, maybe they’ll be taken. I know this is ridiculous, but I seem to need to be aware and prepare myself for the worst case scenario every time. My husband doesn't appreciate the way I grab onto the passenger door handle each time he drives the car and therefore he prefers that I take the wheel, but he also has long known I think too much. "You have to think things through every possible angle", he has been saying to me since we were first dating. Again, I'm grateful for his patience with me.

The words “Let Go, Let God” are on my bathroom mirror. The mantra, “No Fear. No Expectations. Let’s just see what happens”, is one I adopted on New Year’s Day in 2011. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this....signed God” is a new one. And having my world change with my Mom’s illness and my Mother-in-Law’s battle with cancer and her death last Tuesday evening, reminds me that I am not in control here. I never was. I never am. And that’s more than okay. I cannot even control my own worries perhaps. They are what they are. If that paints me as neurotic, so be it. I have yet to meet a person who isn't.

No one will ever be around forever, but in the meantime, there’s a whole lot of living to be done. I may not ever be able to shake all of the worries, but I will continue to do my best to live with open arms and with as much love as I can muster, savoring the time and the people around me, just as I have always done. 

No comments:

Post a Comment