Was the first week of school what you expected? Did you prepare for the “right” things? What caught you off guard? What surprised you (pleasantly or less than pleasantly…)?
Did you feel like a “success”? And what does that even mean? How do you measure it? Did you feel you had it all together? And do you feel you can keep it all together? For how long?
What will help and what will get in the way?
Phew! There are a LOT of things we need to consider when trying to get and stay on track (and guide our kids along that track too).
It’s exhausting. Are you already exhausted and it is only week one?
It’s OK if you are and it’s OK if that feels scary. Today let’s discuss how to navigate some scary thoughts unconventionally…
Unconventional wisdom number 2: Don’t try to anticipate the storms
What do I mean by storms?
Will there be homeschooling on the horizon?
Will my kid fit in?
Will they succeed academically?
Will work accommodate me if my kid gets sick and needs to stay home for a day or more?
Will I be able to make it work financially?
Will there be sports and extra-curriculars?
Will my kid enjoy it?
How will I get them there and back with my schedule?
What social needs will my kid have that I am not expecting?
What new thrill or heartbreak will befall them? And how will we all handle it?
What what what what…..if?
Not to be blunt (*as she is very blunt*) but: We just don’t know.
Take a moment to let that absorb and feel the anxiety that it creates. We don’t have the answers to whether these things will happen. We can’t predict every possible future. But these are normal feelings and thoughts.
Now, do you want to live with the constant worry of “will I be able to go back to my job? Will I be able to handle another semester at home? Will my kids miss out on their social events or sports involvement? Will it be a mess? Will I be able to cope? What if it’s all horrible?”
Probably not. No one WANTS these thoughts and feelings. But we have them to protect ourselves.
Here are some examples of how we manage possible future negative emotions: We don’t want to be caught off guard so we over over over prepare. We say it’s easier to feel the stress now in micro-doses than to be completely blindsided and fall to pieces later with overwhelming stress. Some of us are so afraid of experiencing something devastating that we are unwilling to experience joy and optimism in case it gets taken away, so we stay in stress-land forever. Sometimes it makes us feel foolish to not expect the unexpected. We don’t like feeling foolish so we feel overwhelm instead. Some of us feel that optimism just tempts fate…so we live in the negativity place instead. It seems that constant pain is easier than joy that can turn into pain.
But is a life of pain really easier than a life of joy mixed with pain?
And are we over-exaggerating how awful something might be, thus making our current pain worse than it would be if that thing actually happened?
Let me reassure you: these are completely valid worries. You aren’t being neurotic. There’s no shame in how your brain works. It’s doing what it does to try to help you (even if it doesn’t feel helpful). But remember, right now, that’s all these are. Worries. Visions. What ifs…
Mark Twain is quoted as saying “Some of the worst things in my life never even happened.”.
How many of your worst things never happened?
But did you feel the full weight of them and their tragedy nonetheless?
What did you do with those (real) feelings? Was it useful and helpful for you to experience those terrible emotions?
Some people need to go through the rough seas to know they will be able to cope. Other people get dragged under. Which one are you, honestly?
Is there another way to trust that you CAN and WILL cope if something terrible or stressful happens WITHOUT having to feel the pain and terror right now, in anticipation?
(of course there is!)
Last week we discussed how do you effectively plan if you don’t know exactly what to plan for? The same principle applies here. While I am ALL FOR having an emotional emergency kit available at the ready, I also know that most of my clients (and *ahem* me too) who try to over-prep (aka visualize every terrible outcome) in advance slip way too easily into constant anxiety and worry and then get stuck unable to live in the moment. We worry in advance so that we know what we will do if we have to feel bad emotions in the future. What we end up doing is just feeling them now, and for longer and more deeply, and without cause. Hmmmm…
(A simple analogy that none of us will admit to doing: It’s like when you get a headache and you consult Dr. Google and Dr. Google tells you obviously you are dying. Then you worry about that for a few weeks while you wait for a doctors appointment, completely unable to cope and stay focused in the present moment as your mind fills with terror and you stay up all night thinking about what your family will do once you are gone and then at the doctor they remind you you are stressed and tired and thus have tension headaches and maybe would enjoy a massage and a nap). Thanks doc! Will you watch my kids while I go do that??#parentingproblems
(*I feel like I should say of course always consult a doctor if you’re worried about your health. Just in the meantime don’t create scenarios and diagnoses without all the facts…)
So maybe there will be another lockdown. Maybe there won’t. Maybe your kid will struggle with math, or their teacher, or socially. Maybe they will thrive. But what is happening right now in life? What is happening right now in school? What are your kid’s needs right now? And how can you be there for them right now?
It is what happens day to day, in the moment, that will create connection and strong bonds for you and your kid and THAT is the foundation to coping effectively because when you know you can trust and rely on each other, you know that you will be able to weather the storms with ease.
Stop living in a future “what if” because all you are doing is inviting the pain and worry of a stressful future (that may not even exist) into your current life! Why create pain that doesn’t need to be there? Especially when there is so much joy and beauty around us.
Bottom line of this unconventional wisdom is don’t CREATE the storm that may or may not ever arise. Instead, what can you do right now to see the joy and beauty in each moment (even if there is some stress present)?