‘Worry is a misuse of imagination.’ Dan Zadra
When I was little and we moved to California, I had recurring nightmares of tidal waves (or, if you prefer, tsunamis). We’d be driving along the shoreline and a wave would rise suddenly out of the ocean and overtake the VW van we were driving in. We never had a VW van – we had a Bug – but it was ALWAYS a VW van in the dream. Even still, I have always loved the beach – the feel of warm sand, the soothing sound of waves, the pelicans and occasional seal, tidal pools full of alien creatures. I remember playing in the waves when I was young – learning to respect the power of the ocean after getting sucked under time after time. But that odd fear of giant waves remains…a shadow, perhaps, but it’s there.
I also had a somewhat unreasonable fear of sharks. I’d go into the ocean quite willingly, but somewhere in the back of my mind I imagined being eaten. We, of course, have sharks on the California coast, but shark attacks are not an every day occurrence. I even freaked myself out on occasion in the pool – absolutely ridiculous, I realize, but what IF a shark came through the plumbing! I was young and silly.
Flying has always been something I just don’t think about too much – if I do, I’ll be certain that we’ll fall from the sky at any moment. I’ve flown A LOT in my life, but I’ve been able to push those anxieties looming in my mind back so that I don’t think about them. I’ve never been a white knuckle flyer and I’ve never needed to take anti-anxiety meds to get me through a flight – even one over the ocean. But still…
I have mentioned before that I’m a worrier – a ‘what-if’ kind of thinker. My imagination can get the better of me sometimes. I’m also a list maker – and now one with memory issues. So here’s how I cope before I travel to Hawaii with my family: I make lists, I check them twice – and then I start filling a laundry basket with things that we don’t need daily now so that I won’t forget them. I remind myself that we’re not going into the jungles of Borneo – there WILL be stores if we forget anything. I find out where the nearest hospital is, I make a plan for adjusting my medication timing, and I count my pills for the third time. I pack extra sunscreen and some earplugs (the plentiful roosters on Kauai can’t tell time.) I make sure that I don’t watch ‘The Impossible’, ‘Flight’ or ‘Jaws’. Then I let it go and I get excited about spending a week on a beautiful beach with my family.
I don’t express my worries to my kids – especially those I’ve mentioned here, knowing they’re unreasonable and unfounded. But yet, my youngest is now worried about flying over the ocean. He’s expressing some anxiety about the beach – and he LOVES the beach. He’s 6, so it’s not entirely unusual for these new anxieties to show up as he becomes more aware of himself in a broader world. My eldest is more worried about going in the water – I suspect it has to do with unseen creatures, because the beach where we’ll stay is protected by a reef and there are no waves, but it’s creature rich. Maybe some of these worries are coming out because of the other things happening in our life – they don’t want to express worry over my health, so they worry about ‘safer’ subjects.
We’ll keep talking it through and remind them that the Scared is scared of the things you like. We’ll keep them busy on the plane. And we’re confident that as soon as they see that beach, they’ll be in bliss and forget all of their worries. As will we.
‘There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.’
Henry David Thoreau