Worry is a bully. Lately, due to life being what it is and my, sometimes sloppy but very earnest and intentional attempts to navigate it well, I became a prime target for worry’s antics. It latched onto my thinking and was holding on tight. It was as if all these little energy bites of worry that are floating around in the universe heard that I was a primed and ready to take them in and they made a beeline for this new cozy place to hang. I’ve been just vulnerable enough to welcome them in with, somewhat pried, open arms. This kind of worry is like a bad gym teacher. The kind that is too lazy to show you how to do things so they just sit back with their feet up. They blow their whistle, point out what you are doing wrong and continually holler at you to hustle. Over and over again. You soon begin believing that if you just run around like you are doing something, you may look just productive enough to quiet the old tired guy up. You are running and turning and breathing heavy and ducking from things flying at you and you just. can’t. keep. up. It’s not until you are deep into the season that you begin to realize that this coach is not only lazy but they have no freaking clue what they are doing. Like all bullies, they are struggling with a desperate attempt to hide their own insecurities and are only “puffing up” to create an illusion to mask the truth. The truth that they don’t really have a clue.
Worry hit the jack pot when it discovered motherhood. From Eve to us, we are a motley crew of a worry team. This nasty coach knows they can just drop one tiny little seed of a worry and we just eat that shit up. I think our greatest worry as mothers is that we are doing “it” wrong. At least, that is mine and the one of my nearest and dearest teammates. It is at the root of all our other worries. And because worry has us just where it wants us, and even though our intentions are to help one another get off this bad news bears team, we very often are fueled by our mama teammates. Our collective worry brings us to a whole other level. Our group mentality gets funneled into the wrong direction and we are at worry’s mercy. Worry is in it’s glory. It has us tricked into thinking we need to keep up the hustle or our greatest nightmare will come true. We will discover we messed it up. We made the wrong choice. We took the wrong path. We missed that one sign that would have saved us all. And here’s the kicker, the one that keeps us up at night….our kids are going to pay the price for our messed-up-ness.
That obnoxious worry coach has had me running in all directions for a while now. I began buying into the false reality of busy=productive. And let me just say, when I refer to running, I am not only talking about physically running from one thing to the next (which I have totally nailed btw) I am also referring to mental marathons. The kind that sneak up, blow the whistle and yell “GO!” just at that moment when you finally you think you are going to enter into some sort of resting state. The kind that steal your sleep and take from you whatever zen like vibe you have worked so hard to find.
Honestly, I am not sure which race is more exhausting.
So, after what was a long ass time of worry, I had a fleeting moment of recognizing the lies that worry had been feeding me. I was deep into this worry game. I was tired and I wanted to stop playing.
Feeling inspired by nothing more than a desperate need for change, I went to bed on one particular Saturday night very pleased with myself. I had just made the profound decision that the next morning we would give the worry bully and little push back. I had a plan.
For starters, I would call a time out in the game of being/looking busy. Take that worry. I would make sure that instead of making everyone rise early, AGAIN, to get up and out the door, we’d enjoy the luxury of sleeping in a little late. We would play hooky from church, and… we would go totally outside our normal busy running around routine. We, my friends, were going to go for a hike! Let it be known, we are not a hiking sort of family. Being in the beautiful hills of upstate NY, we happen to live in a place that would make it very easy to be such a family. However, our Long Island roots hold strong. Our “hike” is more of a long walk along a paved sidewalk. This is exactly why I was particularly psyched for this outdoorsy plan. We needed to shake things up and this felt just adventurous enough.
My intention was to wait until the sun stirred us and then I’d announce my exciting surprise. Of course, my three girls would be thrilled about this. I had visions of them looking at me with sleepy smiley faces followed by a giddy dancing, celebratory squeal of some sort. After the dancing with delight we’d all get dressed in all our rugged and oh so cool LL Bean-ish gear (not quite sure where we were going to find these). I would then up my cool mom factor by announcing that we’d first be stopping at our beloved local coffee shop for some yumminess on the way. A bonus that would bring more cheers and giggles and goodness. We’d take our delicious treats and venture on into those “fairy tale” like woods with full bellies, happy faces, and a bit of warm hand holdin’ lovin’.
Not so much. I was about to be reminded that, contrary to what worry has had me buying into, I am not able to plan, organize, or control my way to feeling good.
Instead, I woke up to my youngest, who had snuck into my bed the middle of the night like she has been doing for the last 6 years of her life. This would have never happened with my older two. I was a “everyone in their own bed to avoid future weird issues” drill sergeant mommy. If they crawled into my bed, I immediately shot up like it was my job and put those little rouge babies back in their own beds. No exceptions.
I now know that all kids end up with some sort of weird issues and it only adds to their charm. So, with this third kid of mine… I’m all about exceptions. I like to think this has more to do with me learning how to chill out than it does with the fact that she totally owns me. She really is so stinkin’ cute. She has this way of curling up into warm snuggles next to me. When she is in my bed I get to wake up to sweet kisses on the cheek and a raspy-voiced, “Morning mommy”. Seriously, who am I kidding? It’s the best. Sucker or not, I am not ready to give it up.
Anyway, Miss Thing had a restless sleep and this meant that I spent the night vacillating between rib jabs and having my hair rolled on (which is it’s own kind of torture). When she woke up I was clearly still in the need of some shut-eye if I had any sort of hope of being the cool mom I had gotten into bed dreaming about. Miss Thing was whining at a level that 6:30am (on the Sunday of Spring Day light savings!) just cannot handle. Not cool. Turns out her nose was runny and she couldn’t sleep and can’t I pleaassssseee go downstairs with her??? All to which I reacted with a burying my head a grunt.
Just as I was about to calmly and gently (whatever) explain to her that mommy needed to keep her eyes closed for at least another hour before she could actually mommy (mommy being a verb) in the proper way, my oldest ran into my room. She blew past me and my little whiner and ran straight into our bathroom. She then proceeded to puke her guts up. Oh what a sound for the early morning hours. Lovely indeed.
It wasn’t very long before the middle kid (whose high energy, smart ass personality requires more sleep then our whole house combined it we all don’t want to pay the price) was walking around scratching her head wondering (loudly) why everyone was up in the dark. She was not pleased.
My dreams of the ideal outdoorsy, out of our norm, free from worry family Sunday morning exploded before my eyes. It wasn’t long before I was doing some whining myself and internally screaming things like “Oh this is just perfect!.
All my mom guilt and worrying and blah blah blah was coming to a lovely kicking and screaming temper tantrum-ed bust of a morning.
This temper tantrum lasted a decent amount of time. Although I’d like to say that I shielded my innocent, and let us not forget ill, children from my bratty kicking and screaming about having to adult up and deal, they did, unfortunately, catch more than a glimpse. It came out in my quick to react remarks, my way too slow to surface smile, and my insistence that I needed to run out to get a coffee. My entitled butt must have said a thousand times that I was going to run out for a coffee. I said this while I fed the dog, while I did dishes, while I poured the advil, while I made a breakfast, while I folded laundry. I was obsessed.
Just as a quick disclaimer, I am usually a pretty kick ass mom when it comes to my kids not feeling well. I can hold hair back, kiss foreheads, rub bellies, administer hidden in yummy things meds, snuggle on couches, and nurse my kids with love like nobody’s business. Yet today, I was totally tapped.
It didn’t take long for my pleasantries to spread. A crabby Negative Nancy attitude can spread like wild fire if not kept in check. And I was not keeping anything in check. Like I said earlier, I was in overtime with worry lately. I was tired. My dreams of frolicking in the fairy-like forest were really my last attempt at any sort of check being kept. I was done.
I finally got some decent, coffee run worthy, clothes on my body and was making moves toward the door for my life giving java. As I grabbed my keys, my youngest, runny nosed kid decided she wanted to come. Seems she was feeling a lot better. She wanted out of what was now a house of ATTITUDE. I flat out told her she had 3 mins to get dressed because this train was leaving stat. As I watched her adorable little ass run up the stairs, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that although I just lost what would most likely be my only alone moment of the day, her feeling better was, indeed, a good thing. Then I yelled up to her to hurry because there were only two mins left. Grateful for health is one thing but standing around waiting for that healthy kid this morning was just not going to happen.
My loud time warning jolted my extra cranky middle kid. She finally came to, realizing what day it was and suddenly couldn’t believe I would go get coffee without her. The nerve. She ran to throw clothes on too.
I turned to look at my oldest for sympathy (remember she was the one vomiting just an hour or so before and I was the one looking for sympathy…..just sayin’). Too preoccupied to even notice by pathetic attempt at victimhood, she was rummaging through the kitchen looking for something to eat. The same kid that was throwing up just a couple of hours prior. How the heck are you hungry? We realized this was not a virus, this was her allergy thing that comes a goes a couple of times a year. She too was feeling much better.
Yet again, this day was not shaping up to what I thought it would.
I told her to haul ass and get dressed. We were about to salvage something here.
She whined, of course. She is 13. But, she did it. They all did. About 20 mins after I had grabbed my keys and announced I was leaving – alone, we were all in the car – together. Granted we were still whining but we were dressed, teeth brushed and out of the house. That was way more than I had bargained on at 6:30am (really 5:30) and this counted for something.
We stopped at that local beloved coffee shop of ours. It did not disappoint. In fact, we were all so tired that the delicious food in our bellies was the perfect thing to give us that incredibly needed does of chill. We even had a few giggles. I, for one, was gaining new hope. This day had something to show me after all. I just needed to take that full belly breath to acknowledge this.
So with my curiosity spiked for a different kind of adventure we set off. All of us still somewhat cranky, and all decked out in clothes that showed how incredibly inexperienced we were. We got our map. Although none of us were very good at reading this map, it proved to be a fabulous security blanket. We were told that all the paths were well marked and this was all the assurance we needed.
Somewhere between the coffee shop and the beginning of that path my two younger kiddos became gung ho. The teen was still hesitant. And when I say hesitant I mean eye rolling, complaining, and loud sighing. Yet, I was un-phased by her attempts to derail what was slowly becoming a pretty kick ass journey ahead of us.
How do you like them apples Coach Worry?
We entered in.
First impressions? Muddy. It was muddy as all hell. We moved through the “Ewwwww this is so gross, please let’s turn back” to “Oh my goodness, mom will this come off my sneakers?!” and swiftly into full on giggles about this messy muck we were in.
Miss Thing, the youngest, just plowed on in. Screw the mud was here philosophy. She went straight through it. Mud be damned.
The middle bugger held onto me for dear life. As long as I was holding her hand, she was willing to move forward with little push back. With each mud puddle we crossed together the less she saw the mud and the more her willingness to look up at what was around her grew. This was good because by the time we had moved passed the mud shock, we looked up to find we were deep into a tall, wide, buzzing with light, magical woods.
This was more than any of us bargained for.
That moaning and groaning teen? She was a bit ahead of us on the path. It was a beautiful view of my firstborn. As she climbed over the massive gnarly roots of these trees, as she lifted her head all way back to pause and look up at the sun peeking through, as she bent down to marvel at the mushrooms growing on old stumps, as she occasionally looked back to make sure weren’t missing it….she was lost in all the forest glory. She had gone from dragging her feet with apprehension to leading us through our personal “Once Upon a Time”.
It wasn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Actually, as we hiked through the next couple of hours of forest, they all took turns flip-flopping from hating it to loving it. We got lost a few times. That map of ours and those well marked trees were just not enough for this crew. We’d go from finding this adventurous and fun to wondering if we’d need to find a shelter for the night (because we are all just that dramatic) and not all at the same time. Usually only one or two panicking with the others deciding they were sure of themselves on which direction would lead us home. Then we’d switch out. There were only a few fleeting moments when we all were all on the same page at the same time.
Yet, this is the life we lead.
We did make it. We left those woods dirty, tired, and grateful to see our car. We were also feeling something hard to put into words. Turns out we didn’t skip church this Sunday. THIS was our church.
What I heard and felt in the midst of those trees was so very personally timed and yet a reminder I will take with me for quite a long time.
Here’s what I got…..
To begin, contrary to what worry has been yelling from the sidelines of my life, this gig can NOT be controlled. Trying to run my life, and the lives of my people, just never works. Trying to only leads to disappointment, anxiety, and entitled whining. It leads to a forfeit and I, for one, am not about to throw in the towel.
I walked into this journey of motherhood thinking I had to KNOW. I had figure things out. I had to follow a map and stick to the marked path. Yet, as I’ve walked deep into the woods of being a parent, I have come across my fair share of mud. I have lost the markings and lately I have worried that if I didn’t take the “right” path, my kids would be lost. Because of me.
Then there are my girls. Miss Thing who isn’t afraid to get dirty and jump into the beautiful (and giggly) mess. My middle bugger who never fails to remind me how far a little love and laughter can take you. My teen, who can be so strong willed and questioning and yet still allow herself to enter into the magical corners of awe that life holds.
Turns out, my little ladies are all my little gurus.
We are ok.
We are all more than ok.
We are temperamental and we are full of feelings.
We are quick to whine and we are quick to laugh.
We all take turns needing a extra push to move forward and a reminder to look up.
Lucky enough, we also all take turns leading by faith and awe.
We drive each other nuts but we make a hellova great team.
Oh worry, I joined this team of mothers unprepared for the role you had here. In my desire to be the best mom I can be, I have given you way too much authority over me. It was really never yours to take. I am taking that back now. I am not firing you. I see your potential and the awareness you are so willing to share. I only ask for you to take a step back. Have a seat on the sidelines. Watch and you will see what Love and faith can do. Those insecurities of yours will pale in comparison.
And P.S – I am taking your annoying ass whistle away. That hustle you required of me? I’m over it.
Life is muddy. It’s due to all that darn life giving rain it insists on pouring down now and then. We know how it works. Clouds cover, it gets dark, it gets messy. But it eventually stops. The sun can’t help itself. It keeps shining the whole damn time. The light peaks through and those muddy, nourished, paths in front of us dare us to follow that sloppy muck in whatever direction we feel called to. All leading home.
All you my fellow worry teammates, Let’s take ourselves out of the game. Let’s give ourselves a moment to find a new path. Let’s get our sneakers dirty. Let’s hold on tight to those we love and trust along the way. Let’s remind one another to look up and breathe this breathtaking journey in.
And to you Coach Worry, let US lead YOU by our faith and our awe. We got you.
Here’s to muddy feet.