It was a lazy Sunday afternoon. My friend Susan’s husband was taking their daughter to the airport to fly back to Boston, where she’s a third-year law student. She’d been home to see a cousin’s new baby. My husband was at the office for a couple hours shuffling and tossing papers.
Like me, Susan was just chillin’ and doing laundry so she said to give her a call if I felt like chatting. Chatting with Susan, whether via e-mail or on the phone, is always high on my list of favorite things to do.
Somewhere between talking about the Boston Cream Pie she’d made for Bill, her husband, for Valentine’s Day and fighting fat after fifty (a perennial topic for both of us), the conversation turned to holding on and letting go.
Susan said some things so wise about the importance of letting go of the worry along with the kids that I started taking notes on a napkin. Napkin notes have led to many a published novel in the past so I trust those scribbles.
Except of course I can’t read what I wrote and can’t exactly capture, written-word wise, what my dear friend said. But I can recreate the gist.
It’s not enough just to let your kids go, Susan said, you have to also work on letting go of the worry that lives inside you. After a week at home, Erik took off for Baltimore to see his girlfriend, Morgan. The East Coast has been socked in by snow for what must seem like months now. He flew Omaha to Memphis but missed his connecting flight to Baltimore due to weather delays. The airlines wanted to re-route him to Minneapolis the next day then fly him to Baltimore. Instead he got plane to D.C. and took the train, delayed by electrical difficulties, to Baltimore. But he finally made it.
I worry; it’s what I do. Susan wasn’t telling me to stop doing what is as natural to me as breathing; she was just suggesting that the next step in the letting go process is to step back from some of the worry and anxiety.
Years ago, my husband wrote an excellent column about risk for a Charleston, WV newspaper. He rides a motorcycle and had one when we met in college. He got rid of it but never lost the desire for another one. When he turned forty, he got one again. He wrote the column in reaction to an NFL player’s motorcycle accident. My husband wrote that the most dangerous thing he probably ever did was being a teen detasseling corn under the hot Iowa sun. Fortunately my husband’s melanoma was caught before it was too late.
In 2007, my husband was struck on his motorcycle in a hit-and-run accident. He broke his shoulder, and his beautiful brand-new bike was demolished. When he called me from the ER to tell me, I said the only thing I could. I told him that I had no problem with him getting another one.
Of course I have a problem with it. I also want him happy. Our eldest is an inveterate traveler; travel makes me jittery. But I want him happy, too.
So I need to let go of not only my child but some of the worry too.
Last week, there was a hostage situation at a bank here in town. A man who’d been fired from the local television station held employees at the bank at gunpoint for hours, wanting media attention. The day before Erik had gone to that bank to try to exchange some euros.
Whether it’s a summer job in the sun or a routine trip to the bank, risk exists all around us.
I’ll never stop worrying. But thanks to Susan, maybe I can work on worrying lite.