My future step-daughter is having her very first eye doctor appointment this week. She’s absolutely terrified of getting her eyes dilated because one of her friends told her it was painful.
Several times throughout the past weekend, she handed her father a bottle of eyedrops, tilted her head back, held her eyes open, and let him put a couple of drops in each eye, so she could practice getting her eyes dilated.
She googled dilation, watched YouTube videos, and quizzed her father and me on how it’d feel and exactly what she could expect.
“Why are you so scared?” I asked her.
“Because I’ve never had it done before!”
I get it. But dilation? All the girl is going to get is a couple of drops in her eyes and then have to wear some sunglasses for a couple of hours. No biggie.
But that’s how most fear is: no biggie. A big whole thing of nothing except stomach knots and the flop sweats and possibly some stress-pooping. But it’s all for nothing, usually. We worry and worry and worry. We research and assess and evaluate, imagine the worst-case scenarios and run through all of the what if?s, and rarely does life turn out like we worry it’s going to.
“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere.”
The truth of that statement just sucks because it’s so true. Worry doesn’t do anything. It accomplishes absolutely nothing.
I have worried about plenty in my life. When I found out my ex-husband was abusing drugs, I constantly worried about what he was doing. He shared his location with me on his phone, and not working at the time and staying home with our infant twins, I’d check his location throughout the day. I thought that if I knew where he was and that he knew that I knew where he was, it would keep him from doing anything stupid. I did random drug tests: urine and hair follicle. I searched through all of things and his truck. I even carted our infant twins with him on a terrible work trip to a city three hours away because, again, I thought I could control the outcome. I could make him not use and make him work a recovery program. We’d be a family.
But the worrying just made me insane. I was spending any spare moment I had spinning my wheels, barely sleeping or eating, because I had to make it work. I had to hold our family together.
Letting go was so painful. I sobbed recklessly when a friend suggested that I ask my husband to stop sharing his location with me. I was blowing snot bubbles on the phone and saying, “But then I won’t knowww and then I won’t be able to stop him!”
“You won’t know and you won’t be able to stop him even if you still have his location,” she told me gently. “You don’t have any control over what he does.”
And I didn’t. I wasn’t able to stop him from running up a credit card buying antiques to fill his man cave. I wasn’t able to stop him from embezzling from his job. I wasn’t able to stop myself from miscarrying twice. I wasn’t able to steer my marriage back on course because once it’d sailed far enough out, it caught a current and smashed right into an island called Divorce. I was completely, heart-wrenchingly powerless.
Worry did nothing for me except make me miserable. Misery, I’ve had to learn over and over again, is optional. I couldn’t have stopped him from doing any of the stupid shit he did. I couldn’t have saved my marriage, but I could have saved myself some misery. And that’s where prayer and faith come in.
Faith is the opposite of fear. Faith can stand for, Fear Ain’t In This House, which works perfectly with this other little quote: “Fear and faith can’t live in the same house,” or “you can’t worry and pray at the same time.”
My divorce made me hit rock-bottom. I couldn’t finesse into something pretty, the mindfuck of a mindfield that had become my life and mental state when I walked out of that marriage. You can’t put a dress on a turd and call it cute. All I could do was turn to my higher power, whom I chose to call the Universe but you can choose to call God or the Cosmic Muffin and pray like my life depended on it, because it did. I had no idea what was going to happen: how I was going to make ends meet, how my children would do, if I’d ever find love or happiness or fulfillment ever again. I just knew I had to walk out, so I did.
Now whenever I’m beaten, whenever I’m stuck in my head again, worrying about my wedding coming up next month or if my kids will be okay or if I’ll ever make enough money writing full-time to justify to my inner critics that I can quit my full-time job, I know to turn to prayer. It’s not always my first choice, but it’s always my last. Even if all I’m saying is, “Universe, help,” I’ve seen proof enough to know that prayer works.
I told my future step-daughter to pray instead of worry. Sometimes it’s the very littlest things we need to learn to turn over before we can trust to turn over the big stuff. But, if her greatest fear today is getting her eyes dilated, what a gift that is all she has to worry about.