Tag Archive | worry

before 30

You have probably heard of this thing where people list 30 things they want to do before they turn 30. I am behind a little. I only have 81 days to do whatever crazy things I want to do. Typically this type of thing would be right up my alley. But I have subconsciously been avoiding it for two reasons I just realized. First, even though it sounds cliche, I am joining the club of people who are in denial about their age. I am still coming to terms with the fact that “thirty-year-olds” are not people who hang out with my parents, or those dragging their kids to little league games, or people who tell cheesy jokes and drink adult drinks. No, “thirty-year-olds” are MY FRIENDS, and I am one of them. Sigh. My mom says when you are a kid life goes so slow and then somewhere around adulthood it starts rolling like a snowball until about 50 it is racing so fast you have no idea what’s happening. Guess I better hold on.

Anyway, I think the second reason I haven’t done the 30 before 30 is that to be honest, making a list like that just wouldn’t be that big of a deal, for me or anyone else who knows me. I live and breathe lists. Grocery list, wish lists, meal lists, goal lists, packing lists, project lists. I’m one of those people who adds something to the list just to cross it off. (You know who you are.) I make so many lists that last year I decided that a master notebook (think Trapper Keeper, thirty-somethings) to hold all of my books of lists would be a good investment. It held my notebook for grocery lists, my notebook of project lists, and my notebook of – wait for it – miscellaneous lists. (this is not a joke.) When describing my trapper keeper to my husband, this was the point at which he burst out laughing.

No, for me the challenge has never been lining the lists and getting the goals. My 30-before-30 list would just be one more feather in my cap for self-accomplishments and petty victories. If I really think about, for me a REAL success would be to STOP doing, stop planning, stop analyzing, stop achieving, stop predicting and charting and mandating and controlling and thinking and… DO NOTHING.

In other words, to stop worrying.

Hmmm. The first time this insane idea crossed my mind I literally laughed. What a ridiculous, impossible thing. To make a goal to stop worrying! Makes for a good chicken-soup-for-the-soul story but how in the world. How would I even find the resources to totally, totally let go and with all my strength and heart and mind work on being positive? Too crazy.

And then I was dared to. I was talking to my mom; I can’t remember if it was the time I thought Ty had whooping cough or I was having another kid or I couldn’t ever have another kid or Sam was too energetic or too lethargic or what. But anyway, I was bemoaning the state of me, the inflicted worrier, when she slapped me with this: You know, you don’t really know if you can stop worrying, because the truth is, you’ve never really tried. Being the goal-oriented person I am, I was more invigorated than offended. Puh! Never tried it!! Is that a challenge? I’ll take it!

Of course, it would be goal-making heresy to vaguely pledge to forsake worrying with no defined end. So 1-before-30 it is. Until October 26, 2011, I will do no worrying. (Don’t ask me what happens the 27. Worry party?? Anyone in?)

Anyway, upon further deliberation I realized I may need to redefine things, because, come to think of it, telling someone to not worry is about like telling someone not to think about oranges. (What are you thinking about??) And also like, if you forgive my presumption in Bible interpretation, the story Jesus tells about the empty house and the demons coming and filling it. No worry, and you just have an empty space for more destructive thoughts.

So perhaps a better goal is this. For the next 81 days, I will be a positive thinker. I like the sound of that. Truth be told, I am a little, um, worried, about it though. What if I fail? Of course now I’ll have to tell all of you, but it’s really not little old blog followers that terrify me. As any perfectionist understands, it’s me. What if I set a goal, make a list, and FAIL? I would be so depressed. Honestly, though, I don’t think it’s failure that terrifies me most.

It’s success. What if I try to become a different person – and it works?? Then what?? Secretly, I like me. Flaws and all. And goodness knows we don’t need two Todds around here. Who would rush the kids to the doctor? Who would warn everyone of tornados (okay, tornado warnings. same thing.) I am at core terrified that if I stop worrying the next 81 days will be full of undetected ear infections, uninspected lumps, untreated diseases ravenging through bodies, unaddressed child-rearing issues and basically, calamity after calamity slapping us, out of the blue, in the obliviously cheerful face.

So it is with great trust, both in God, who I do admit is REALLY in charge (there, I said it), and also trust in those of you who see me daily, that you will alert me if I am exhibiting pre-diabetic symptoms or my child does indeed break out in rashes at the sight of ragweed or whatever alarming things I might miss.

I choose to sit in the passenger seat.

And I am going to dare to enjoy the view. At the impending notion that something terrifying could be coming, I am going to – gasp – choose another, more happy ending. I am going to give life the benefit of the doubt. I am going to assume the best, or does it count if it is at least a medium option. I am going to speak hope, and good, and life and health and beauty, and not tiredness and hints of a runny nose and why-could-he-be-late and I can’t-make-it-through-todays.

To be honest, I’m not exactly sure WHAT I will do because this optimism thing is foreign language. So I think I will ask for help. In fact, I think I will interview a few optimists and maybe post it here. Stay tuned. And in the meantime, give me an early 30th birthday present and pray with me. That I can let go. And that if I do, I won’t fall (apart). I’ll keep you posted on my exciting adventure. Here’s to 81 days of optimism. Kind of has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?


a letter to me

It is no secret. I was a horrible new mom. I was selfish, I worried, I stressed, I (gasp) tried to keep the house clean and dinner cooked, and I doubted myself, my calling, and, basically, whether life would ever be what I hoped it would. Well-meaning books and magazine articles remind you you can’t be a “bad” new mom, but, oh, I was. Then again you probably already knew that if you’ve read much.
I think my major problem – besides lack of sleep, which I am convinced is the most effective form of torture mankind could ever utilize – was perspective. I lost all sense of time. On some level I think I truly believed I would never again have a shower longer than eight minutes and that Sam would be crying from gas the rest of his life, a life that, incidentally, was destined to be cut terribly short from SIDS, nasal congestion, or general bad parenting.
Thus, it is with an understandable amount of apprehension that I anticipate the arrival of little Ty. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. But more than nervous, I feel determined. I know my mistakes, and I will NOT make them again. I can’t wait to meet our newest little guy, and show him how much his mommy loves him, and also that she is unfazed by inconsolable crying. It won’t be easy, though, so I’m writing myself this letter to read when things start looking bleak.

Dear new-mom-again Jessica,
First of all, stop right now and say thank you. This is hard, but it is not cancer, it is not heartbreak, it is not war or AIDS or persecution or imprisonment. God is allowing you to be stretched and made holy in the most wonderful, blessed way possible – with a precious little newborn. So say thank you.
Now take a long, deep breath. It may seem like this will last forever, but it won’t. Right now you are worried that this little guy will roll over in his sleep, that he has some undiagnosed allergy, tumor, or infection, that without you watching him like a hawk he can’t possibly survive newborn stage. Relax. Chances are good that before you can blink, he will be sitting in his Bumbo with a smiling doggy bib eating sweet potatoes reading “Green Eggs and Ham” and saying “mmmm.” Chances are, he will survive, and so will you. And that crying, gas, or colic? He might be unhappy now, but he won’t be forever. One day he will be bouncing and laughing in the farm animal chair, he will die giggling when Daddy tickles him, and he will jump up and down squealing the name of his favorite stuffed animal.
You’re tired. Every minute of crying is longer, every burnt piece of toast more devastating, every “no” from Sam more obnoxious, every too-small piece of clothing more offensive, and every worry more terrifying than it actually is. It will all look better by bathtime.
So just wait. No matter how awful-horrible-no-good this day is (and it’s only 8:26 in the morning), it will end. Eventually, all babies will be sleeping, and you and Todd will laugh at something Sam said and that you found mounds of toilet paper behind the television and nipple shields in the potato chips, and you will climb in bed and watch 24, and it won’t be so bad.
But until then, enjoy. You may be tired, someone may be fighting a nap, you might be worried about asthma or fitting in old jeans, what to make for dinner or whether Ty is allergic to peanuts or not. Nevertheless, there are still beautiful things happening. Sam might be finally learning his colors, or Ty discovering his hands, or maybe the dogwoods are starting to come out, or a new dachshund puppy going for a walk, or a friend just finding out she’s pregnant, or the sun making that pink color it does at about 5:45pm in May. Don’t miss the good things. One day the boys will be gone and your house will be empty, and believe it or not you will gladly give up your blow-dried hair and vaccuumed floors and 5:30 dinner reservations to be cleaning up playdough while two kids are crying. (So I hear anyway. 🙂 So until then, relax, trust, and enjoy. You’ll all make it! I promise.
older mom Jessica

more on death.

I’m not a freak, I promise. I can’t help it that I’ve been gifted.
It’s kind of like my sister. She has a gift. Tell her that you just found out you’re pregnant, and she can tell you within thirty seconds your due date. My gift is kind of like that, only not at all. You see, if you give ME fifteen minutes, I’ll tell you everything and anything that could possibly go wrong in your little old life. Beautiful, isn’t it?
So here we are, with another death post. But it gets better, trust me.
You see, it dawned on me the other day. I’m going to die. Why do I fight it? So I immediately did what I always do when I am determined to conquer something by ration, reason, or force. I research, and I organize. I wish it were sexier, that I were one of those people who conquer their devils by running fifteen miles, or hiking a mountain, or even concocting something new in the kitchen. No, for me it’s always been: read everything you can on a subject, and then make color-coded index cards and a spreadsheet to give some poor soul a presentation on something they never wanted to know.
And thus it was with death. And where, persay, do I go if I want to learn about death, and slay the dragons of fear thereof? The Bible, of course – that’s where I went. The whole thing, actually. Well, okay, I skipped the Old Testament for purposes of time. But I started with Matthew determined to write down every single reference to eternity, dying, or heaven. Cure it with research, right? (I do realize that this whole post is casting a rather unflattering self-image, but in my determination to be honest, and – more importantly, helpful – on I go. 🙂
Well I have to be honest, the first couple books were a little more bleak than I had hoped. I felt like from an initial skimming that I had been called “a brood of vipers” one too many times. I wasn’t quite feeling the hope. Until John.
The Gospel of John is my new. favorite. book. Did you know there are over 31 references to eternal life, just in the FIRST HALF of the book? It’s always Jesus talking, and according to John he mentions the word “LIFE” about every time he ends a miracle, or story, or lesson. It’s incredible, if you’re looking. Man, I felt better reading those. And incredibly, not so much with “eyes on heaven” that I wasn’t any earthly good. On the contrary, I can tell you that I sliced the dinner sweet potatoes with a new enjoyment, attention, and joy. It’s odd, but true.
The big question, though, is, does my new knowledge cure me from those awful death fears? Well…those who saw me dash all of the sofa cushions in the pantry to escape the impending “tornado” that occurred, or was predicted to occur, three hours later, might probably assume no. But it’s a start. I thought I might share a little of my hope, but you should really go read the whole book. This is just one verse, the first that really hit me. It’s familiar, but I can tell you it had new meaning for this little researcher, scared to death of death.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.

I am an Israelite

Update on our resolution. Many, many thanks to Melissa Gibbs and her invitation to read through the Bible in a year. It’s February 6, and I’m happy to say both I and my hubby are back in the word (most days anyway:). I think – for me anyway – it started out as an obligation, and a bit of drudgery. But God’s word is a story – the best story – so we now meet the task not so much like a runner to the treadmill but more like (forgive my sacrilege) a Jack Bauer fan to a Sunday night. It’s interesting, exciting, and inviting.
Today was a big day. First, God parts the water of the Red Sea so the Israelites escape Egypt, and then, the waters pound back down to bury the Egyptian army. Of course the story is amazing, but what always gets me is those dumb Israelites. Three verses after a miracle, they’re complaining to Moses about bad-tasting water. After all they’ve seen, complaining. They’re just idiots. Stupid, bratty, forgetful idiots.
Of course, I think about this story for two seconds, and then the conviction hits. I quickly remember my own complaining. and worrying. and doubting. and the miracles I stubbornly forget. Everyday there’s some common annoyance, something lacking, something worrysome, something just as selfish and petty as yucky water, that has me grumbling to God.
I heard some guy on the radio recently say that faith is a function of memory. I had always thought of “faith” as some irrational but godly surrender of everything potentially awful in the future. But I think he’s right – that faith is more like forcing yourself to remember the acts of God in your past.
My little miracle is one room away, taking his ten o-clock nap. He’s not our miracle baby like most mean it, with hopeful praying month after month and finally those cheerful pink lines. No, when I think of our miracle, I remember standing in the nursery, holding him sobbing, wondering if he would ever look us in the eye or play normally or laugh and smile with us. I remember Todd and me on our knees in our living room, begging God to give us wisdom and heal our little Sam. I never want to forget. I want to remember my miracles. Forgive me, God, when the worries of today make me doubt.

“In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.” ~ Exodus 15:13

Mothering is an Art

So moms are pretty amazing is what I’ve realized. One huge revelation was the high degree of physical, tactical, and sensory finesse required to do the job. Here are a few skills I’ve honed. I’m pretty proud of them.

– The art of removing a nipple and sliding in a pacifier without the half-eating, half-sleeping baby realizing the change in texture.

– The art of turning down blankets in a crib with one’s toes while keeping a baby horizontal and asleep.

– Without doubt, the most practiced and hoped-for skill: putting the baby to bed. You silently creep to the nursery while maintaining a tight yet still comforting grip around your baby. When you reach the crib you then lean ever so gently over. It is vastly important not to have the baby sense the open air as he leaves your chest in transition. You lay your arm down on the sheets between you and the baby, hoping to warm them in a few seconds. If you sense any resistance from the baby at all, you must freeze and tighten the grip – not too much, just enough to seem natural. I have found “shhhushing” does more harm than good to an awakening baby. It is best to remain silent. If the baby stays motionless on the sheets, you maintain the grasp with one hand while securing the blanket with the other. Again, keep two hands on the baby for at least 30 seconds. If things seem hopeful, say a silent prayer and tiptoe out…

– the art of burping. Okay here’s one skill I actually don’t have but want to. So many questions. Does the patting need to be hard or soft? Positioned low or high on the back? How often does one burp in a feeding? How does one know when the “burps are out”? Does an upright baby produce more burps? Should one alternate positions in one burping session? Any help????

– The art of soothing a fussy baby. This one is the ever-changing, elusive skill. One day your little one needs absolute quiet, darkness, and serenity. The next only reciting your grocery list (or any other repetitive sounding paragraph said in a monotone voice) in a roomful of conversing people with guitar music in the background of an illuminated room works. Somedays the rocking motion needs to be brisk and lateral; others only the cadence of, say, a stationary pontoon boat in a slightly deserted cove – i.e. slow circular motion with “shh-ing” to imitate rippling waves. And then there’s the mysterious pacifier. Somedays it meets the lips with the penultimate satisfaction of a longed-for meal. Others it’s spat out immediately with a look conveying, “How could you. That is NOT the real thing and I KNOW IT!” Oh, one day I’ll be a baby whisperer. Seriously, why don’t they teach classes on these actually useful things instead of Lamaze and tour-of-the-hospital?

I am a big fat worrier

One thing that I’ve realized is the vast amount of unsolicited advice first-time moms receive. I’m not blaming anyone, because since even after about 10 days of motherhood I found myself also offering my own set of hints to pregnant or eventually-will-be moms. It’s funny what people’s “invaluable” advice is. A few of my favorites were, “Scrub your nipples down with Brillo pads to prepare for nursing,” “push like you’re pooping,” and “sleep while he sleeps,” which is comical not because of how outlandish it is but because these people apparently don’t have babies like Sam, whose daytime sleep immediately transitions to wide-awakeness approximately 60 seconds after he leaves the arms of the person who has soothed him into slumber. So, yes, if you mean “barely drift off to sleep while holding a baby on your lap with one hand on a pacifier and the other holding all his limbs tightly to simulate the womb” then, yes, I’ll do that.

Anyways, Amy, a mom of two students I’ve had, visited me after Sam was born and gave me two of the most helpful pieces of advice I’d gotten. The first was to grip your breast like a hamburger when nursing. The second was that God makes parenting so hard ON PURPOSE – so that we would have to rely on him. I had no sense of exactly how difficult the first week of Sam’s life would be. (Poor guy – he’s probably thinking, “You think it’s been hard on YOU!”) Most moms could empathize with the bulk of the list – contractions, labor, lack of sleep, etc. Difficult as they are, these were nothing compared with what first hit me on Day 2 of Sam’s life, about ten p.m. The nurses had finally kind of left us alone. Visitors were gone. The lights were dimmed. We were exhausted. We needed to sleep. Sam and Todd apparently had no hard time with that – Todd was scrunched on the “couch” across the room, and Sam was swaddled in his hospital bassinet which I had wheeled next to my bed. Yet I, as tired as I was, could close my eyes no longer than a minute before – certain that he was choking, suffocating, and had stopped breathing – I would rouse awake and determine to watch him to make sure he was safe. I’d like to say the night ended with my drifting to sleep anyway, but the madness continued until 6:00 a.m. the next morning when I stood in the bathroom, crying, shaking, calling my mom for some sort of direction on how in the world I could ever close my eyes and trust that he would be okay. And as mothers know, that kind of fanatic worry doesn’t end with fear of SIDS – it drifts forward in time, imagining all sorts of illnesses, crimes, rebellions, and calamities that could show up. You’ve never loved something so helpless.

A chronic worrier, I won’t ever lose this for good. But I did have an epiphany moment. We arrived home with Sam on Friday morning. I’d had less than 8 hours of sleep the whole week and the time had come. Leaving my helpless precious one with my husband, who had to promise not to sleep, drop him, or go to the bathroom, etc. etc, I climbed the stairs to our room and collapsed next to our bed. With tears streaming down my face, I choked out to God that I was placing Sam in His hands. Even then I realized the ridiculousness of my thinking – somehow Sam had been in MY hands and MY control all those nine months of developing and growing. Of course not. The same God who started his life and protected every developing cell STILL has him in his hands. But parenting certainly makes you live out that trust you claim you have…I have a feeling the adventure is just beginning!