Like me, my close friend/ex-sister-in-law is a retired English teacher. When she and I were in the midst of teaching and raising kids and married to bad men, we daily shared our problems with one another. One thing she said that stuck with me when I’d be complaining and worrying about something was “When you get back in that classroom tomorrow, you will stop worrying about all of this. You won’t have time.”
That may not seem very wise, but it carried me through many times when I didn’t know if I could turn off my mind from all the worrying.
Now, I don’t have that classroom to occupy my thoughts. I’m no longer living on the stress of meeting a deadline, planning lessons, dealing with discipline problems or maintaining control of 30+ teenagers for 50 minutes to make sure they learn how to write a decent essay.
Now, I’m alone with my thoughts too much and my thoughts naturally go to the worst place of all – the land of fear.
Now, I have all the free time in the world to obsess about the “what ifs” of my life. No matter how many times I tell myself that these worst-case scenarios playing in my head are useless, they are still on repeat.
The funny thing is that, even though I’m worrying about what might happen, I’m constantly telling others not to worry about things. It’s the old “do-what-I-say-not-what-I-do” syndrome.
My daughter is taking a GRE prep class and shared her insecurities about how she will do on the test. “What if,” she said, “I don’t score high enough to get into grad school? What will I do then?” My response was the typical mother one of “You’ll do fine on the test and if you don’t, that won’t be an end. Maybe you’ll see a new plan. Maybe you can become a flight attendant so you can take me places.”
My granddaughter shared her concern recently when told that the students in her school would get their Florida Standards Assessment results the following day.She’s only 11 and has taken several annual standardized tests, but this test was new and different. “What if,” she said, “I don’t get a good score?” My response was the typical grandmother one of “You’ll do fine on the test and if you don’t, I’ll raise hell with the school because I know the truth about those tests.”
I think I helped them with their fears, but I’m still obsessing over my own –the PET and CT scan results, the late night interstate driving trips, the end of the line for an addict, the money not stretching far enough, and on and on and on. I use the rational part of my brain and tell myself that my worrying and fearing these events will come to nothing which makes them go away for a minute. I try to be a good Christian and turn them over to the Lord, but the fears are still lurking in the corner of my mind, waiting to pounce when I have no other thoughts to take their place.
Now I know why retired people stay so busy playing bridge, traveling, crafting, etc. We are trying to escape our fears.
Will I have to go back into that classroom in order to forget all of my worries? Good Lord, I hope not, but ironically, that’s also one of my fears.