I had one of those startling fear responses last night, but for the life of me I cannot recall what it was that frightened me. Most probably it was the movie M was watching in our bedroom; I do not do well with horror and suspense movies. This was something we had seen before, and while it was not particularly suspenseful or gory, it was one of those tense moments with a sword to the throat that could very possibly not end well.
It did get me thinking about what scares me. Frogs and slimy hoppy things. Knowing it is ridiculous to be afraid of the common frog or toad in the garden does not lessen my anxiety or response to seeing one outside. When we had the tree frog infestation (resulting in us remodeling the pool and removing the offending trees and rocks around the pool) I would not set foot outside if I could hear them or after dark. My phobia is that bad.
Seeing violence in movies disturbs me greatly. M suffers from insomnia, and when we gave up the cable several months ago we went with a Roku that has a headphone jack in the remote so he could watch whatever he wanted without contributing to bad dreams and nightmares. The things that make movies and television shows great and engaging are precisely the wrong elements for a good night’s sleep.
Ours is a pretty sedate lifestyle. We are not out and about in dangerous places, especially after dark. I get nervous on the trails circling mountains with steep cliffs, because I fall. A lot. Time and experience might cure me of that. Hopefully my new hiking shoes will give me more confidence. But the places we go hiking and such are not so remote that I worry about being attacked by bears or mountain lions, although M knows a runner who was killed by a mountain lion on a popular trail. Still, this is not something I am thinking about when we are out enjoying the forest. I am far more concerned with how steep a fall I might be in for should I slip.
More than anything, my biggest fears are about something bad happening to someone I love.
After my daughter’s collapse and subsequent death in 1996, I came to realize how truly powerless I am over a lot of things in the bigger picture. I am a mom. I have that instinct that I should always be able to make things better, to resolve the problem, to make the world a safer and more secure place for my children. Obviously that instinct is somewhat flawed. I could not save my child. Trained physicians, brilliant and accomplished physicians could not save my child. Because her condition (arterial venous malformation in her brain) was present since birth, I struggled and wondered about what contribution my pregnancy habits had upon my child. I debated for years whether or not to have my surviving children tested, and ultimately I decided it was not a good pathway to pursue. What if they also had one and there was also nothing to be done? I would live in fear of the known and it would impact all our lives and interactions.
Now my kids are grown up and on their own. We speak regularly, as anyone who read this blog is aware. We have healthy relationships and interactions. I like and enjoy them as people as well as love them completely as my children and my family. But it is still a fine line when we discuss adult issues and problems. I find myself speaking to them in black and white absolutes, as if I am the mom and they are the child and will do as I say without question. I am acutely aware of it, and both my kids about being clear and direct with regard to their status as grown adults. It’s good for all of us that we can set and enforce boundaries.
It’s been a damn hard lesson to learn, accept, and act upon.
Letting go of the parental controls has been the toughest part of parenting. When their problems were also MY problems I had the autonomy to change the situation. Watching them navigate as adults makes me feel like a helpless bystander at times. I have to have faith that I raised them to be independent adults. I have to believe they will do the right thing, including asking for help when they need it. I try to watch my tone to talk and advise, not lecture and direct.
I guess I am not much of a worrier overall. My kids are living their lives, and for the most part they do not exhibit lifestyle traits that have been concerned. I like that we have real conversations about what is going on in their lives, so I am mostly prepared when something comes up. Ignorance is not bliss, but I have to have faith in their ability to manage their own lives and problems. I put a lot of faith into our family ties, that they know I am someone they can absolutely rely on for non-judgmental and reasonable, hopefully sensible advice. I know I feel that way about them, if I needed something from them, they would be there to the best of their ability.
Don’t borrow trouble, the trainer at my first job said to me on my first day of work, and it is advice I try and take to heart. I do not want to live in fear of what could happen. I want to be ready if something should and enjoying each and every one of the normal, uneventful, non-crisis days inbetween.