It was the last day of August 2019 when my daughter and her husband picked us up at the airport and handed my husband and me a gift. GRANDPARENTS est. Spring 2020 the framed picture read. WOO HOO! My first child was going to have her first child. We could hardly wait to make plans for me travel from Louisiana to Connecticut for the birth.
Then, WHAM. March 5, I cancelled my flight and made plans to drive. A week ago, I cancelled my hotels along the route. Not even driving would make it safe for me to be with my daughter before, during, or soon after the birth of her son. My heart was broken. And, within the span of a breath my broken heart turned to worry.
That annoying voice in my head flooded my brain with the worst-case scenario. Who would be there to help her? What if she experienced the trauma of labor and had to face this without anyone she knew in the room with her? What if she panicked and no one there knew how, or had the time to comfort her? What if her husband was allowed in, but because of his own inexperience didn’t know what to do? Even worse, what if the hospital wouldn’t allow her husband in? Then what would she do?
I lived in that emotional space the better part of a day and well into the night. It took 2 Benadryl to knock me out. But then, I woke up well before my usual 5:30 with a clarity that took my by surprise. I knew what I would do; I would write her a letter.
Waves of memory washed over me as I recounted example after example of times when she showed courage in the middle of great fear. I wrote of her willingness at 14 to give it a whole week after her first day at band camp at a new school in a new town had scared her to death. I reminded her of the time she walked into class at 17 with her head held high when the entire class turn their backs on her because she’d broken up with their friend. And the time she walked into a group of strangers at college orientation, introduced herself with a smile and asked the name of each person there. I shared the time she accepted an internship and moved away from her family and all her friends for 8 long months. And of her willingness to change jobs because her employer hadn’t given her enough opportunities to advance.
The truth is, there have been signs throughout her life of inner courage and strength that I don’t think she fully recognized. So, it was my job to point them out to her. I wouldn’t be with her, but I could teach her one more time that strength and courage aren’t the absence of fear, but a willingness to walk through what cannot be changed. And that, she’s already done.
Am I heartbroken that I won’t be with her? Yes. Will I be horribly sad for her and her husband if he can’t be with her either? Absolutely. Am I concerned about their exposure to the Coronavirus? Without a doubt. But I am no longer worried.
What I learned:
- Most of us worry about what we’re capable of doing because we don’t really see what we’ve already done.
- Many of us are so preoccupied with past failures that we don’t even recognize our past successes!
- It’s easy to let fear create its own agenda, but it doesn’t have to win.
What you can do:
- Take time to make a list of examples in your own life when you moved forward despite fear.
- Write them down as bullet points to jog your memory when needed.
- If you’re having trouble finding examples, examine your standards as you look at previous situations. It is possible you’re only seeing what went wrong or fell short, which leads you to believe you failed then, so will again the next time.
- Instead, of seeing only failure, look at what you learned from that experience, about yourself and others.
- Reframe the experience so you see it as more than a failure. For example. See how much you’ve been able to do despite that embarrassment or failure. Even small things, like going to the grocery store when you feel like a fool takes courage. It’s a victory!
If you do these steps when faced with your own difficult challenges, you’ll soon discover you have more strength and courage than you know.