"I'm worried about bombs and poison gases, Mom. I mean, what if something like what happened in Boston happens here? How do you know it won't? We're learning about the chemicals in water and I'm thinking about how our water could be poisoned, and I can't get it all out of my mind..." Her anxieties issued from her in a gush.
I don't know it won't happen here, sweetheart. I can't promise you it won't. But I can reassure you that kindnesses in our world are more likely than terrible things. And while we live every day with the knowledge that accidents happen and sicknesses happen and pain is part of our experience, births also happen, and celebrations, and beauty and wonderfulness are all around us.
A few more trips from her bedroom for reassurance followed, until we finally sent her back to bed with an assignment to think of a baby girl's name for each letter of the alphabet.
We're all worried these days, aren't we, though we each feel it and wear it and express it in different ways? Our daughter, prone to apprehensions and anxious wonderings, was bound to come to us with Boston-inspired concerns and questions. She devoured a copy of The Hunger Games over spring break, a book I'd hoped she would wait to read, with its poisonous berries and...everything else. Being displaced right now, between old house and new and on an extended vacation at Mammom's and Bampa's house, provides another source of instability.
I watch my own reactions to news and personal circumstances closely. Pregnancy--even simply embarking on the journey of parenthood by attempting to conceive or adopt--means stepping onto a landscape of uncertainty and unknowns, new frontiers of hope and worry. I mark the hurdles: heartbeat on ultrasound, first trimester completed, negative screening results. But there's no point of earned complacency in parenthood and life, only comfort in acknowledging the risks and joys associated with vulnerability.
Disasters and tragedies aren't required to provoke our anxieties--all we need is a convenient temporal basket for our worries. Moving, and a new house, have been ripe fodder for my over-active imagination at 3:00 AM. I pictured the deck on our house as higher than it really is, the hillside steeper, with guests tumbling into the canyon in the event of a collapse. Upstairs windows might be easy for children to fall from. The canyon could be a nesting ground for rattlesnakes. Would our house be easy to burglarize?
And then I remembered this week we'd momentarily forgotten to be afraid of North Korea.
So much randomness and unpredictability inspires the desire for us to exert controls on identifiable and accessible areas in our daily lives. I could put locks on the windows, install an alarm system, forbid the kids from exploring the canyon. But the worries would only reinvent themselves, seep through cracks in the door frames like poison gases. There aren't enough sandbags to guard against uncertainty. And somewhere along the bucket brigade we stop living how we truly want to, with chin up and eyes on the birds twittering on the fence, on the sunset, on the horizon.
So we hold hands, snuggle on the bed, reassure, and resolve.
We're working on managing our fears and anxieties over here. How about you? How have worries surfaced? How do you balance caution with embracing wonder and vulnerability?
P.S. a shout-out to Jewel, whose song "Hands" made it into the iPod shuffle on my jog this morning, with timely lyrics:
"If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair..."