Day 78: Don’t Panic

Lately the girls (both of them) just totally lose it over things that are very minor. After the 50th time, (ok maybe it only happens 20 times a day) I start to lose my patience. I look at them and say with 100% seriousness that they need to think about whether these things are worth crying over or not.

And then I realize that I sound ridiculous. They are 4 and 2.5 years old, so I highly doubt that they have the skills or the life experience required to analyze whether their circumstances are worth panicking over or not.

The quarantine for us was a bit of fresh air because it ushered in a new phase of family life where the girls learned to play relatively independently throughout the day. Bigger than that milestone, we are finally past the baby phase. Everyone sleeps (well enough) through the night. We have meal times and nap times every day and a relatively normal bedtime ritual. All these things coming together mean that for the first time in years that I can plan with relative ease. Even better I have enough energy to get ahead of things, to strategize and to be creative. This may sound like small stuff but it’s huge in getting a handle on your life when you’re trying to wrangle rattle snakes. I mean raise little kids.

Prior to this phase we were in the one where the mom just hangs on by her teeth and tries not to fall off the edge. I think that early phase (but let’s be honest it’s like 2 years long) is the one where moms really earn their wings. The requirement to somehow micromanage everything and yet go with the flow is like a marathon where the route is unmarked. The beginning was lovely, but as the babies grew so did my expectations of myself. When I attempted to add normalcy back into my life, I was frustrated at every turn by my inability to live up to my memory of who I was. I was afraid that the changes in me (and not the good ones) were irreversible. Mixed with the hormones and the sleep deprivation it snowballed into panic pretty quickly.

Even the second time around? You might be asking. Yes, actually worse the second time around because the second time you have two little humans to contend with.

It feels like miracle but I’ve finally moved out of this phase. Now I can see the panic for what it is and I want to reassure you just in case you happen to be in the thick of it–Panic is a hysterical voice. One that makes you feel like all is lost. It makes everything blurry, and in the middle of your misery it tells you that there is no solution and that you’ll never be the same again. This is the new you, the voice says, and this is what your life has come to.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re raising children or writing a book or working from home or going to school. Panic can strike anybody at anytime. It isn’t reasonable and most importantly–panic is usually a liar.

Listen carefully to the voice when it gets you in its clutches. Listen. It isn’t constructive. It doesn’t show up to encourage you when you actually have something to accomplish. It doesn’t come to help you get off your duff and do something that needs to be done. No– it attaches itself to one negative thought and shows up at a time when you cannot fully control the circumstances. It spews fear about the outside forces in your life. It’s never really about you, the panic is about a situation you’re in or some other thing that is not really in your power to change in that very moment. And that’s how panic works. It adds fuel to the fear fire.

But you can put it out. Just lick your fingers and reach over there and put out the match flame. Panic itself is a tiny flame. It gets big when we entertain it. It only can grow in the darkness of fear, in the spinning, untethered wind of self-doubt. So turn on the light.

What we need to do is acknowledge the panic. Don’t ignore it or it seeps under your skin. Look right at it. Hear it. Dignify it with a response and move on. You could say, Ok. Maybe that is true. Maybe that scenario could happen. But maybe not.

As soon as you express doubt about the validity of its claim, the panic is extinguished. It only has power if you don’t recognize yours.

Life, no matter what you’re doing, is full of phases and they all have their time. Panic comes to tell you that the phases are never ending. It’s a thief. It steals your time, your peace of mind and it doesn’t bring anything concrete in return.

This too shall pass is a universal truth. No phase, no circumstance has really rewritten who you are, or stolen you from yourself. This phase will end and you will re-emerge. You will recognize yourself. You will be you but better.

Until tomorrow, Don’t panic

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