“Momma…….my tummy hurts.”
Any parent who’s had to clean vomit out of the nooks and crannies of a childs’ carseat will know the full-body, red alert feeling that comes when you hear this.
We were on a road trip to a family reunion this summer when Zosia called this out, and I immediately went into panic mode. Granted, I have an unreasonable fear of car sickness from an incident last year – I won’t go into details, but let’s just say there were three days in a row where I had to carry a barf-covered child from a barf-filled car into the house. Three times. In a row. Pretty sure I have some form of PTSD.
Even so, it seems like every mom has atleast one thing they really worry about. I also worry a lot about my kids falling down stairs and the possibility of them running into traffic. My friend Nikki worries about her son getting his eyes poked out. Grace worries about her kids falling down the river bank by their house. Sarah has had a repetitive dream about her kids being eaten by a boa constrictor in their backyard.*
*All printed with permission of course. And, for the record, my friends are awesome.
The minute the threat of vomit is there, game over. It’s actually pretty amazing how quickly my mind gets taken over. I’ll have been “Calm, Cool Mom” singing along to Raffi, enjoying the scenery and then in a flash I quickly transform into “Crazy, Panicky Mom”.
“What kind of hurt is it baby? Are you maybe just hungry? Or do you have to fart? Does it feel like you’re going to vomit? Okay…okay…just lie down a bit sweetheart and look out the window. Here, I’ll roll down the window for you so you get some fresh air. How’s that?! Is that okay? Okay, okay…. Chris, do we have any bags or paper towel? Of course not. Why don’t we ever have anything in the car when we NEED IT?!!!!!!!”
As you can imagine, this is super effective.
In that moment I’m no longer driving the car. I’m not sitting beside my husband, and I’m not taking care of my kids. I’m in a future world, far outside of myself where I can imagine all of the terrible things that are about to happen and how I am going to deal with them.
Worry is incredibly seductive because it feels soooo productive; like I’m preparing myself to handle the situation.
And when it’s healthy, this is what Fear does! It’s an incredibly useful emotion – healthy fear brings forward our focus, it hones our senses, and increases our ability to respond.
But when it’s unhealthy, Fear turns into Worry or Panic and it becomes a form of distraction. Running all of the possible scenarios through my head over and over again is denial and avoidance at its best. When I’m stuck in Worry, it allows me to dissociate from my body; to move myself out of the moment (where it’s uncomfortable) into another place where I can think and plan so I don’t have to feel.
And while this may seem like a really productive thing to do, avoiding or distracting ourselves from our feelings doesn’t really do us any good. Denying any of our emotions (even the uncomfortable ones) is denying a part of our selves. You can’t have joy without pain, that’s just how it works. And practically speaking, the feelings don’t go anywhere when you avoid them. They just keep coming up.
So the trick is to find the balance between avoiding Fear, and getting sucked so far into it that it becomes Worry or Panic.
Allow without getting engulfed.
When I’m at my most aware, here’s what I’m practicing:
When fear comes up, I stop………. and take a deep breath
Acknowledge the emotion by saying, “I’m feeling afraid” or “I feel worried”
Re-connect to my body by grounding myself (imagining my feet are roots that sink deep into the ground) and give a few moments to feel the fear
Then, I check in with myself and ask “What action should be taken?”
I get quiet, and listen to what my intuition tells me
What I’m noticing is when I give myself these few moments to allow my fear in, the emotion comes up, does its work, and then moves on. This leaves me far more capable of responding to the situation from a place of consciousness, rather than emotionally-hijacked reactive mode.
Sometimes I practice this…..and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I get stuck in Worry and that’s okay. I’m getting really good at remembering that perfection isn’t the goal; Love is. Lots of love - especially for ourselves and all of our wonderful emotions. That’s everything.