When Fear Hijacks Joy
The other night we went to the beach. It was perfection. A rare 92 degree day warmed Lake Michigan to slightly above chilly. We practiced gliding. And jumping waves. The kids and Dan dug a big hole. They buried each other in the sand while the warm breeze brought in evening. And I breathed it in; I leaned into the joy of my family and creation colliding.
And then I got scared. Scared that we weren’t doing this enough. Scared that I would look back and regret not going to the beach more. Scared that the others are right, I would regret it if I didn’t enjoy each and every moment of parenting…even if it involved sand in the eyes.
Sometimes I think the push to enjoy every moment of parenting and the insistence on perfection is simply a way of saying we’re scared. Scared that age 18 is rapidly approaching whether our kids are 14 years or 14 months old. Scared that one day we’re going to look back and wonder if we did enough. If our kids are prepared for the world out there. If they’ll look back on their time with us fondly. If they’ll want to come home.
And this can happen with anything; it’s pretty easy to start catastrophizing – even during the joyful moments. We finish a good book and lament the fact that there are so many great books we don’t have time to get to. The kids are sleeping in and we worry they won’t wake up. One kiddo is in a particularly helpful, fun, responsible stage and we wonder if he’ll turn into a rebellious teenager. The seven-year old just conquered a difficult climbing tree and we picture her falling, breaking an arm, and not being able to get in the water all summer long.
And that makes sense. Who doesn’t struggle with this?
In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown talks about the idea of foreboding joy. Our inability to lean into joyful moments because they make us feel vulnerable. So we look at our peacefully sleeping children and imagine the tragedy that could befall them. Or we insist on living life in a constant state of disappointment. We think all of this is steeling us against tragedy, should it come. But there is no such thing as steeling against loss. Great or small, it’s going to be painful. And Brown says the best way to prepare for it is by practicing gratitude and experiencing joy.
Regret is real enough. It wastes time for us all. Let’s not waste time being scared of regret, too. Let’s lean into those vulnerable, joyful moments with everything we have.
Do you ever find your joyful moments hijacked by fear? Are you ever scared of future regrets? How do you lean into joy?
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