Parents always, always try to protect their children. It is a given of loving parenting, I know that. I do it today, in my parenting. And many times it is precisely through this attempt at protecting our children that we disarm them for the fights to come.
“Crying always follows laughter.”
“Always consider the worst case scenario.”
“Make sure you just stretch only as long as your blanket allows.”
These were some of the ways in which parents in my generation tried to shield us from what they believed were the battles to come. And maybe, to some extent, they were successful. Maybe, as we faced such shifts in our lives, being prudent served us well. And maybe it limited us as well.
Happiness has always been the ultimate exposure for me. I would feel my heart swelling with joy and immediately panic. I would instantly work to dim all the lights that had lit up inside me for the fear of a short circuit that would burn the entire network down. I would stare around me for the comet ready to strike me. I would duck and cover.
Long ago I read this:
I understood early on that it was not dealing with my anxiety and obsessive thinking that was the ultimate exposure for me. It was basking in happiness. Taking in every moment of joy and letting it turn the lights fully on. Laughing out loud, turning heads with the sound of my laughter. Dancing around the house for joy. Not looking for the comet. Staying with the moment of happiness regardless of what the next one brought.
If we pay attention to our moments of angst and anguish we realize that having tried to anticipate them by staying small, looking down and not allowing happiness to fill our every pore did absolutely nothing to prepare us. Hard times still hurt. They still break our hearts. They still shake our ground. But looking back, there is one difference: through the tears of inevitable tough times we look back and find the twinkling lights of past joy and the latter sustain us in the gratitude of their existence and in the hope that they will come again.
Photo by Andrew Bui on Unsplash