Monday, October 7

In which the worst doesn't happen, and what that might mean

Last week, my husband went out of town for a work conference, and I was left to solo-parent both boys for three days. Yeah. I'l give you a moment to let that sink in... Three days, two boys, one mama. That ain't good math. To make matters worse, our daycare was closed on Wednesday, one of the two regular weekdays my kids attend, which would make for a challenging week even if my husband were home.

For weeks leading up to this I was in a constant mild state of freak out. I was so worried about how hard it would be, and what if the baby didn't sleep? (He didn't.) What if one of the kids got sick? (They didn't.) As the actual days neared I cranked up the self-care to fill the well, called the babysitter to come help out for a few hours around dinner and bedtime, lined up some playdates, and crossed my fingers. As the day of my husband's departure neared I was somehow strengthened to discover I would have new episodes of Sister Wives and Louie to watch on Netflix. (It's the small things. Also: don't judge. I like to mix it up.)

And then he left. And nothing terrible happened. Sure I was tired. Yes it was hard. But it was so much less hard than I had anticipated or feared. Really, it was just fine. We went out and hung out with friends. The baby napped sometimes, sometimes he didn't. I drank my coffee and wrote my morning pages and even folded and put away some laundry. More than once did I feel like Super Woman. It only got unbearable in the last hour--the longest hour--before my husband came home, delayed by traffic.

Have you ever had the experience of bracing to push open a door you expect will be heavy or stuck, only to find it yielding easily, and stumbling on the other side from lack of effort? That's a little how those three days felt. I had a similar feeling this summer when I flew to Montreal by myself with both boys. I spent weeks of intense anxiety and planning leading up to the trip, and it went just fine.

My inner frantic planner would very much like to believe that the amount of fretting I do prior to such an event is directly proportional to the ease with which the event flows. And to some degree it might be true that by expecting the worst, I set myself up to be pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn't occur.

But, this time, I am left with bigger questions. It occurs to me that, more than likely, it was always gonna be fine. Why? Because I have the resources needed to handle whatever situation presents itself. I am beginning to suspect that all the planning and list-making and late-night worst-case scenario rehearsing stems from the fact that I doubt my own powers--my strength, wisdom, resiliency, equanimity. I am starting to clue in to how much I live in a place of can't: can't handle this, can't do that. And that this doubt is not simply a healthy recognition of my own shortcomings, but a way to hide from all the strength and goodness that lies within.

And so, I wonder--what would happen if I lived in a place of owning my own strength, resiliency, power? What would change in my day-to-day life if I operated from a deep trust in my inner resources? What would I take on if I wasn't afraid I don't have what it takes? How am I holding myself back as I believe in this story of who I am? What other story is waiting in the wings?

I don't know--yet. I hope this is the beginning of finding out.