I was at work when I received a surprise call from my son, Jeff. When I saw his name pop up on my caller ID, I felt a twinge (OK, more than a twinge) of anxiety. It was 11:30 a.m. Jeff and his wife live in Northern California; he was calling at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time. Yikes!
I answered with: “Jeff, what’s wrong?” He paused (that was the longest pause, ever) and began to laugh. “Mom! Nothing! I’ll be driving for three hours to attend a meeting and I thought of you.” Then he added: “You’re still such a mom!”
Yes, I’m still such a “mom” as my son says, but more disturbing, is that I entered into the “dark”—something I’ve outgrown, so I thought. Perhaps you are thinking: What in the world is she going off about now? Well, we all do it at one time or another, or maybe it’s habitual. A situation arises and we step into the “dark” aka, expecting the worst—without any evidence. Sound familiar?
Here’s a well-known scenario.
We go to our physician for a routine visit or perhaps are experiencing a minor issue. Said physician decides to do standard blood work and advises that if we don’t hear back in seven business days to call for the results.
We may or may not leave with a prescription, but we definitely leave with a little niggling worry: What if there is something wrong? What if I need more testing? What if…(fill in the blank). Up till now, we have not entered the dark, yet. At this point, we are able to dismiss those anxious thoughts, easily enough, until….
The seven days pass and no word from our physician. We wait another day then, with some trepidation, make the wanted and dreaded call. The medical assistant tells us that the physician is busy, but will return the call at the end of his day. At this point, some of us enter into the dark.
The day passes slowly, as we watch the clock. Tick…tock…tick…tock. We begin to wonder. When does the physician’s day end? How long will I have to endure this suspense? What if?…There’s that what if, again, folks…
By this time, some of us may concoct a scary story. We may envision ourselves in a hospital bed, surrounded by our concerned family. As the day slowly passes, we’re becoming more and more distracted. Anxiety kicks up its heels and is wildly dancing to the two-step rhythm of our heart.
We check our phone, more often than usual (if that’s possible!) and finally at 6:30 p.m. the phone rings causing us to startle. Our caller ID shows the medical office number. The pleasant medical assistant informs us that the doctor will be on the line shortly. The recording plays some “relaxing” music, interrupted by a recorded message “Your call is important, the doctor will be right with you.”
By this time we may see ourselves facing certain death! Our hands are slippery and the phone takes on a different persona—the bearer of horrible news. The physician gets on the line and cordially asks how we’re doing.
We answer with tremulous “OK.” We think, “Are ya kidding? You should know.”
Doctor: “Your tests came out fine, but…”
“But what?” We silently scream….Our heart’s two-step tempo speeds up to a rhumba.
Doctor: “You need to take more vitamin D. See me in three months.”
We hang up weak with relief. However, we have entered into the “dark” and caused needless suffering for ourselves.
A friend was about to celebrate a big birthday. Her husband planned a surprise party and hired a party planner. A month before her gala, my friend confided that she was worried about her husband. “How so?” I asked. She admitted that her husband seemed preoccupied and was acting strangely. Knowing that her husband was stressed about the upcoming party, I placated her.
Two weeks before the party, she called me at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. (Yup, my friends know not to call me at that time.) I sat up in bed when I heard her sobbing. She was sure her husband was having an affair. She had gone through his cell phone and found an unfamiliar number that appeared numerous times.
What’s a friend to do? Tell her the truth, let her suffer from her overactive imagination, or call her husband. I chose the latter. At first, he thought it was funny, and then he became annoyed that she investigated his call history. With that, he said, “Let her suffer!”
And me along with her, as I was her confidant.
Finally, the big day arrived. As my friend and her husband were driving to the party, she was sure he was going to spill the beans and confess that he was seeing another woman. She conjured up a mystery gal who was twenty years her junior. (Typical!)
When she entered the hall, the band started playing “Happy Birthday” and everyone yelled, “Surprise.” I thought she was going to faint, literally. She turned pale and started to shake. When her husband planted a big kiss on her lips she burst into tears—tears of relief!
Ah, me. Those stories we tell ourselves. Why do we do it? Why get so upset? Is it human nature, or human nurture, or both? We humans are creatures of habit. Every time we think a certain way, a habit is forming and deepening in us, like a groove. Every repetition adds new life to the habit until it becomes second nature to enter into the dark.
It’s daunting to think how often we walk in the darkness of fear, anxiety, insecurity, jealousy and the like, allowing the “what ifs” to dictate how we will think or feel. How much of life have we missed because we were in the dark? Once we really examine all the “what if“ stuff that feeds our fears, we can ask ourselves: What evidence do I have that this is true? Most times we find little or no evidence; however, we are physically and mentally exhausted. We have been fighting shadows.
When we find ourselves shadowboxing in the dark, we need to turn on the light of consciousness. Eleanor Roosevelt put things in perspective by saying, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” All we need to do is flip the switch: Light or dark…you choose!