Y’all ever dress rehearse tragedy? Ever daydream about a horrible, terrible situation happening to a loved one? My go-to right now is something happening to Evan and it usually ends with his death. OF COURSE, it’s morbid and dark, but it is also, absolutely, a defense mechanism.
Okay, let’s back up…why Evan? He’s my baby and he’s also my 17yo teenage son. Y’all know much about teenage boys? Their brains, especially the frontal lobe, aren’t fully developed. His particular brain development also appears to be on the late bloomer side. Then there’s the optimism bias or better known as That’ll Never Happen to Me – I can talk until I am blue in the face and Evan will still have to learn some things on his own. And then, finally, there is the risk-taking behavior. On one hand, as a fellow adrenaline junkie, I appreciate this personality trait – I LOVE his zest for life and his fearlessness. But given the aforementioned attributes, continued poor choices, and the challenges we face, you can understand my angst.
So sometimes, sometimes, I go there. I go to his funeral. I go to a future without him. Even writing this makes me cry. Why do it? Because if I “practice”, it won’t be so bad if it happens – which is ludicrous we all know. Or it’s because if I actually lean into the good day and allow myself to feel joy or hope surely the other shoe will drop and I’ll be punched in the stomach…again. Point is, joy is terrifying. I didn’t realize this until I read Daring Greatly by Brené Brown but YES – to lean into JOY is hard and requires vulnerability. And when we’re DONE with feelings we slip into foreboding joy. Enough of being exposed – time to put on the armor.
But here’s what else I learned – the antidote to foreboding joy is gratitude. It’s practicing thankfulness everyday. You see, if I’m so focused on what COULD happen, I’m missing on what actually IS happening. Then there’s faith right? Not one of us knows the future…to be flippant with the preciousness of life is just as assbackwards as worrying about losing what we already have, right?
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. Matthew 6:34
I’m not the first mom with a wild man child…nor the last. Many, many survive these trials and go on to greatness. But before that…their moms probably took things one day at a time, prayed continuously, and counted her blessings along the way.
As an aside, I’m an overachiever and my foreboding joy generally ends up at a funeral – but it can also be day to day things – it can be any time you dismiss something good happening in your life because it’ll never last – while I am not a huge fan of Oprah – I think this video explores this phenomenon in more depth than I can here.
Final thought – good times don’t last. But neither do the bad times. Life is fluid and life is precious. Rehearsing tragedy is a tragedy in of itself – it’s wasted time and energy on SOMETHING THAT HASN’T HAPPENED. Just stop it said to self – go hug that boy and call the other. Count and embrace your blessings today.
xoxox – DM