I was in Saint Augustine (Florida), relaxing in the park adjoining the historic fort. As I sat on a retaining wall overlooking the bay, I saw a woman and her three children walking in my direction.
The woman was tall and thin and looked relaxed and happy. Her children followed contentedly as they walked the irregular wall, which had a sharp drop-off of five or six feet. Below the drop-off was a shallow beach covered with rocks and protruding oyster shells.
When the group reached me, the two boys climbed onto the parkside grass to go around. But the girl, who was maybe eleven, spotted a ring on the rocks below. She asked Mom if she could go get it.
Mom nodded her approval and kept walking. There were no warnings to be careful. No look of concern. No questioning, “How will you get back up?”
The girl jumped down and her feet hit with a thud. She retrieved the very worn-looking ring and held it up with pride. Then, a look of realization crossed her face. The barrier seemed suddenly steeper.
After a few attempts, she managed to scale the jagged wall, only to fall forward and onto her knees at the top. While her knees looked scuffed, she wasn’t bleeding. And no one in the family seemed concerned.
I thought this was the neatest mom ever. And her children reflected her calm and confidence. If she succumbed to needless worry, she had determined not to show it. And her ability to move forward without comment worked to her own benefit, as well as to those who depended on her.
I would do well to take her lesson to heart. Worry less about the well-being of others, when my worry threatens to undermine their confidence or learning experience. Accept that I am not in control of things and allow minor events to unfold as they will, since most of the time all will be fine. And with less worry, there’s more room in one’s heart to enjoy and to love. Let’s face it. It’s hard to enjoy other people if they’re only a source for concern. To love someone, you must let unreasonable or excessive concerns go.
Those of us who are incessant worriers believe that worry itself prevents bad things from happening. But when something happens, it’s typically not the thing we’ve prepared ourselves for.
And as I’m transcribing these notes from two years ago, Covid-19 comes to mind. Who would have thought that, in 24 months, I’d be out of the park and sunshine and relegated to a room transcribing piles of journals. Who would have thought that my most dangerous activity would be going to the grocery store.
All of the silly things I worried about, and now life has come to a halt. But that may be a good thing, as self-reflection and reason gradually replace anxiety. Perhaps as we scurry about, running to or from this or that, we are telling our minds there is much to fear. Forcing a stillness may be what’s needed to calm us down. And maybe calm is what’s needed to reconnect with others; to reconnect even with ourselves.