As the anxious mother of two anxious daughters, I try to share as much hard-earned wisdom and life tips as I can.
One of them is that dreading something is almost always worth than the actual thing itself.
When I drove Ruby to her first summer of sleep-away camp four years ago, I reminded her of this as we navigated the windy, hilly roads of North Alabama: “This is the worst part, baby. If you talk to anyone who’s ever sky-dived, they’ll all tell you the worst part is just before you jump.”
We talked about it again about three weeks ago, Ruby and Georgia and I, as we prepared for Ruby to head to St. Louis for two months with her dad. “We’ll all be OK once Ruby actually leaves,” I told them as we all sat, sad and sniffling, two nights before her scheduled departure. “It’s the part right now that’s the hardest.”
Another thing that’s true is, as Tom Petty sings, “Sure as night will follow day, most things I worry about never happen anyway.”
When I was around 8, my mom – the anxious mother of an anxious daughter – offered a twist on that advice that I’ve never forgotten. She told me about reading a news story one day about a driver who was killed on the highway when a frozen slab of beef being carried on a vehicle in front of him broke loose, shattered his windshield, and hit him in the head.
“When that man woke up and got in his car that morning,” she said, “he might have been worried about any number of things, but I think it’s a pretty good bet that he wasn’t worried that he’d be killed by a frozen hunk of meat. You can’t possibly worry about all the things that might go wrong, and most of the stuff you worry about will never happen. So try to relax.”
I have to laugh when I think back on what I was worrying about in January: summer camp. Georgia had aged out of her usual summer camp and I didn’t know what to do instead, and while Ruby was as excited as usual for sleep-away camp, I was secretly struggling to figure out how I was going to scrape together enough money to send her when I was also paying to send her to DC over spring break.
“We can’t tell Ruby she can’t go!” I lamented to my husband. “It’s her fifth year! She wants her five-year medal! And Georgia needs camp! We can’t drop everything to take care of her, and anyway, without some structure, she’ll just be playing video games all day.”
Ha. Hahahahaha. Oh, God. It seems so ridiculous now.
I managed to find and register Georgia for two camps she was eager to go to, and between careful savings and an unexpected freelance job, by March, I had enough money to cover my share of Ruby’s camp.
But I worried about the wrong thing, as usual. Because of course there is no camp now, and my carefully hoarded cash went to COVID-19 expenses, and Georgia is absolutely 100 percent playing video games all day, even though my husband and I are both working from home.
Most things I worry about never happen – and lately, it seems like most things that are happening are things I wasn’t even creative enough to worry about in the first place.
Stay safe, friends, and stay calm. And watch out for falling frozen beef.