“Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.” – Unknown
As you might imagine, I have been swimming in sea of anxiety for the last several months. I don’t do particularly well with unfinished business, much less circumstances in which I have no control. And since the beginning of the year, several rather large, uncertain situations have moved in on my life, like unwanted house guests who refuse to leave despite my obvious displeasure with them. Between my surgery, a whirlwind of significant work challenges, and the usual run-of-the-mill parental hand wringing, I have been wound tighter than usual. (Dave can tell you how tight that actually is.) Yet, I’m also guessing that most people don’t realize the state I’m in. To them, I have handled all of this so well – with grace, even.
On the outside, this may be true. But I can tell you that — on the inside — there is nothing graceful about it. I have been engaging in constant screaming matches with myself inside my head for weeks — about how everything might turn out, how I might prevail or fail, and what it means long term. It’s worse than a sports talk radio show in there.Welcome listeners to Anxiety 103.8 – All worry, All the time, Commercial-free Angst!
In the last few days I have been reflecting on how I typically react to unknown and potentially unpleasant outcomes, because I am very interested in doing better on the inside, not just for these larger life moments, but for the daily uncertainties that pick away at my inner peace. And I think I have found an unlikely culprit in my suffering:
A seemingly benign state of being, Hope is often invoked as a means to pull you through something difficult or lift you up to higher ground. We are encouraged to “choose hope”, “be hopeful” and “hope for the best.” And I have always embraced Hope with an open heart, especially in the last few months. It seems to be the right thing to do.
But, frankly Hope hasn’t been getting the job done for me for the simple reason that it is inextricably linked to Fear. At best, Hope is weighed down by Fear and unable to pull me up to the places I want to go. At worst, Hope is really Fear in disguise, just prettied up to resemble optimism.My hope that the surgery would go well was a cheery mask placed on top of my ugly fear that it wouldn’t. My hope that a big project at work will be a success is a tiny voice screaming over the booming fear that it will be a failure. Every last hope I have for my children regarding their happiness and health stands side by side with my fear that someday they might suffer.
Yeesh. It takes as much energy to Hope than it does to Fear – maybe even more because I can’t just hope without fear weighing in. It’s hard core emotional resistance training – and it’s exhausting.
So I’m giving up on Hope for a while. I want to see how that goes.
For those of you who just made a mental note to stay away from me until I emerge from this phase, fret not. I’m not replacing hope with fear. I’m replacing both with something else, something better:
Faith is certainty. Faith is peace. Faith is timeless and transcends the day to day worries that bounce around my brain.I had faith in my surgeon and my support system that I would get through it all. I have faith that I am doing all that I can at work to succeed, and hard work always has a pay off in the end. No matter what obstacles my boys meet on the road of life, I have faith that I have taught them well and given them the tools to meet challenges that await them. I have faith that loving them is enough.
I have been making a conscious effort to move from hope to faith in the last week. And you know what? It isn’t that difficult. When Hope and Fear start their Anxiety Show in my little brain, I turn it off. And I turn on all that I am sure of – favorable conditions I know to be true; friends, family and colleagues upon whom I can unconditionally count; and outcomes I can control. I reject standing on that fragile and unsteady floor of Hope – and ground myself on the terra firma of Faith. It feels good and takes far less energy to maintain.
And from there, I plow forward into the uncertainty of the next minute knowing that, there is nowhere to go but up.