I remember lying awake on the bottom bunk in the room I shared with my little sister in the second grade. It would be well past midnight and I’d stare and stare at the tiny yellow roses on the bottom of her mattress, thinking about how stressed I was.
Stress?! What stress could I have been experiencing then? I would have been, what…eight, maybe nine? I clearly recall wondering if I was going to pass a test, or play well during a recital, or if the fight I was having with Allison would go away or not. Many nights were spent like that. In the quiet, alone, and wondering why I couldn’t “fall asleep as fast as a cheetah” (the prayer I would say when the hours kept crawling by and counting sheep didn’t work). Fear came later, along with the night terrors- and I wasn’t alone for those. My sister would come sleep in the same bed, my dad would play the guitar (Vincent, my favorite), and my mom would sit next to me during those episodes. But insomnia and its sister, anxiety, crept under the covers with me and nestled in for the long haul.
When I look back to little Anna, fretting and losing REM over such small things that inevitably worked themselves out in the end (who knows or cares whether I passed a test on the Wind in the Willows), I just want to reassure her that everything ended up being okay. Or so far it has. That the “no”s were usually just “not right now”s and the molehills that I saw as mountains were indeed climbable and climb them I did.
But isn’t it easier looking back? When you’ve made it through years and years after, succeeded and made it through and lived. Those problems seem so minuscule, so small in the grand scheme of things. The hours spent worrying, full of uncertainty and distress, just weren’t necessary. I’m sure they shaped some part of my existence to be what it is now, but running things over and over and over in my mind didn’t change the outcome.
I continue that annoying pattern of worry to this day. I remember a therapist telling me once that my mind was rigged like a gate that couldn’t close. Most gates have the ability to stay shut when someone closes them, but something in the gate latch of my mind isn’t quite working well enough and while I may try and shut that gate, it keeps creaking open. That visual helped me realize that sometimes these thought processes can’t be helped and when those thoughts that I’d like to take a break from wiggle back, it’s okay.
It’s likely that the uneasiness that plagues me now will seem as small as the ones that bothered me when I was very young. “What if that plan doesn’t work out?” “I really should run more often.” “Did I get the job?” “Did they like the pitch?” “What will we do next?” “Will our offer be accepted?” “I wonder why they haven’t said anything?” “Does that look good?” “Where should I go?” While these questions are important and I don’t diminish their role, they don’t rule my future. They don’t rule me. Not unless I let them, and I have to fight not to let them.
I was chatting with my mom about this during our lunch today and she shared a kind of prayer, kind of mantra that she turns to.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment
because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions,
persons, situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change
any situation, condition, person or myself.
I open to the
love and presence of God
the healing action and grace within.
I know that referring to this won’t always assuage my frustration in the thick of the unknown, but it may help me release need for control and to relax my shoulders, if only just a little bit. Maybe it will serve as a reminder that there’s a lot more out there than just me…and that things just keep on moving along. Even if I’m not worrying about them.