Illuminated Parenting

Mama Said There Be Days Like This

Some days I just know I’m an idiot. It becomes abundantly apparent when I least want it to, such as the day I went hiking with my friends Al and Janet in the nearby foothills to Greider Lake. It was reportedly 20 miles from the main road to the trail head but we were well past that mark and still no sign of a trail. I was driving, and the joy of the impending hike was turning into a gnawing angst, as the road seemed to go on and on to nowhere.

I was beginning to sweat the distance because I had started with half a tank of gas that should have easily gotten me there and back, but only if the miles were as advertised. I watched my fuel gauge move rapidly from half to quarter tank. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that if I used more than half my gas getting there I wouldn’t have enough to get back.

Anxiety crept in, worry took over my brain. My friends would now confirm what I have always known, I’m just a disorganized and irresponsible person. Internally, I berated myself. ‘Why are you so lazy?’ ‘Couldn’t you have left earlier and filled the tank?’ ‘You should have thought of it.’ ‘You are a space cadet of the worst kind.’

Now the really good news is that none of those thoughts are true. If I had the presence of mind to remain calm, I would take comfort in that I had thought the day through, had decided with the information I had that half a tank was plenty. I can only make a decision with the information I have at the time. And yet I so easily went to embarrassment. I feared I had made a mistake and people would see my faults. It was unbearable.

Worry took me over, but worry would not make my gas go farther. If it was going to happen it would happen and that would be it. No need to worry. I was able to take some deep breaths, stop with the catastrophizing, and allow circumstances to play out as they would. It could be that I would make it on the half tank and all would be well. Worry was completely unnecessary no matter what the outcome would be. I watched the gauge like a hawk, when would be the last moment I would have to give up, tell my friends I didn’t have enough gas to continue and turn around.

As it turned out I made it on the half tank – easily – so worry was totally worthless. I was ever so glad since the hike also turned out to be twice as long since the trail book was wrong about that too. Needless to say I don’t use that trail book any longer.

The main point is that people can live a whole story in their heads that never happens but only causes havoc in our bodies, making us tense and jittery.

How often do you live out a scary or troublesome event of your own fabrication? A story that never happens but you live the pain and suffering as if it did?

Additionally, in what ways are you passing how to worry on to your children?

Be aware of the Big Black Hole

An analogy I find useful is the idea that when we are spinning a scary tale we are at the bottom of the Big Black Hole. How do you know you are there? You feel bad. Some kind of bad. Sad, worried, anxious, harried, fearful, angry, whatever. You are experiencing strong emotions, and it’s not because you’re going to Disneyland. It just doesn’t feel right at the bottom of the hole.

Most of us, when down in the dark, keep digging the hole deeper by thinking negative thoughts such as, this will never end, I’m so stupid, this is out of control and all the ‘what ifs’ of how it can go wrong.

Dealing with the Big Black Hole

Step 1 – Recognize you are wading around in the dark.

Step 2 – Stop digging deeper by imagining the worst. Pay attention to your thoughts and bring them to neutral such as, ‘Well, I need to breathe and slow down,’ or ‘There might be a way out of this.’

Step 3 – Look for the positive solution. It can be very simple such as, ‘I can find a way to handle this or better times are ahead,’ or ‘I will call a friend.’

This is an excellent exercise in self-awareness for you and your children. When you follow these steps it’s as if you create a ladder out of the big black hole and back into the light of day, where solutions are found.

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