Thank you to all who expressed concern for Noah and his safe return from Israel. His homecoming a week ago was a huge relief for our family, and I’m still processing the experience, which has been enlightening in so many ways for me as a parent.  Below is one of the larger, unexpected takeaways, which I feel lucky to have the opportunity to share with you.

While my “spidey-sense” was constantly tingling when Noah was in Israel, I kept it together most of the time and operated at fair degrees of normalcy.  I worked, I ate, I slept (yes, believe it or not), and held my own in conversations with other people, all according to my usual M.O.  There were, however, a few periods when I was too worried to function.  When a rogue rocket from Lebanon hit in the town where Noah was staying, when the airlines banned all flights to and from Tel Aviv within days of his departure, and when I found out that the kids’ flight path home took them over the Ukraine, I ceased caring about much else besides the situation right in front of me.

Issues that would normally have me wringing my hands and fretting over outcomes became immediately inconsequential.

  • Work deadline?  Uh…. not happening.
  • Happiness of my “other” child still ensconced in our home?  He’s imperfectly safe here in America.
  • Cat that had decided to stop using her litter box?  We’ll figure out where she is peeing soon enough.

None of it mattered.  Even how I worried about Noah changed drastically.  At one point, we spoke with him on the phone and he complained of a sore throat, a condition that normally would have me obsessing about the medical care he was getting, and whether he was suffering.  Yet, given that at that particular time, we didn’t know how he was getting home, my reaction fell somewhere in between:  “Do you have any Advil left?” and “Suck it up, Kid, as long as you’re not calling me from a bomb shelter, it’s all good.”  I had very little concern for how much fun he was having, whether he was getting along with the group, or how much he was eating, spending or sleeping.

And poor Chase, the dutiful younger brother to whom I will someday apologize for dumping at camp in the Pocono Mountains during this time without much more than a high five.  I think we slowed the minivan down so he could jump out.  I’m not sure – it was all quite a blur and much different from previous years when we lingered with all the other parents, needing to fully assess his well being leaving him for four weeks.

My BIG Worry about Noah’s safety completely suffocated all my smaller worries.  And in some twisted sick way, it was liberating to let all that other stuff go, if only for a short time.

I began to visualize my fears as balloons filling up the finite amount of space I had in my heart and mind for such things.  We all have different capacities for anxiety – some larger, some smaller – and we fill whatever space we have with our concerns.  Usually, my Worry Chamber is filled with balloons of small to medium size – with a bit of room left over for daily fire drills, running late and the scale that has been going in the wrong direction..  I have been very blessed thus far to have so few times in my life when nothing else matters but a single mega  concern.  But as terrifying as something that large might be, it does provide perspective about what truly matters.

People with BIG problems tend to seem overly gracious, calm and often at peace about the world that surrounds their pain.  It may be because they are Zen-like people to begin with, but I think it also has a great deal to do with the fact that there isn’t any room to sweat the small stuff.

When Noah’s plane landed at JFK Airport on Sunday night, my Big Worry completely deflated.  I enjoyed the vacant space for a few hours, before my smaller worries reappeared, much to my annoyance, and took their rightful place in my Worry Chamber.

I got my kid back!!  
Deep breath.
Thank the Universe.  
I wonder if  he started his summer reading.

The big worries consume you, the smaller ones chip away at your soul day by day.  I hadn’t realized how many tiny anxieties were going on with me until I cast them aside.   I wish somehow we could gain the perspective that comes with big worries without having to suffer through them.  Until then, I’ll remind myself and my kids that if I’m worried about the length of the lawn, the score of the math test, or the on-time arrival of my next flight, we are a very lucky family indeed.

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