The other night, my 6-year-old daughter asked to see a picture of herself in her crib. We opened iPhoto and started our search in 2006, the year of her birth. However, with the click of one video, the desire to see the crib was quickly forgotten; my six and nine-year-old children couldn’t get enough of themselves as babies.
As my daughters delighted in their adorable expressions and babyish voices, my eyes kept filling with tears—from both amusement and nostalgia. Yet, there was also a tinge of discomfort while watching these clips—these 30-second snapshots of our everyday life. I remembered these events happening but from a very distant perspective; I was physically present, yet I wasn’t really there.
It didn’t take me long to figure out the reason for this troubling detachment.
As my children and I looked at videos and photos from 2006-2010, I realized there was a central theme:
and more worry
Clicking through random pictures and videos was like flipping through a rolodex of past uncertainties and fears. Sadly, I could remember exactly what worry was distracting me … consuming me … at that moment.
Here’s a small sample:
In the video of my youngest child putting on her new blue crocs at 14-months of age, I remember holding my breath hoping these shoes would be the ones she would finally keep on her feet. I wondered just how much longer I would be subjected to disapproving looks as I pushed by barefoot baby through the grocery store in the dead of winter. I was so worried about her disdain for shoes that I forgot to appreciate those itty bitty toes and what a happy, shoeless child she was.
In my worry, I lost a moment.
In the video when my oldest daughter celebrated her second birthday in our “Mommy and Me” music class, I worried about the way she buried herself in my lap, wanting nothing to do with the other children. While thinking that her extreme shyness and clingy nature would surely cause her to reside in my basement until age thirty, I failed to notice how happy she was tapping her sticks to the rhythm. I failed to take in the lovely sound that came from her precious little mouth.
In my worry, I lost a moment.
In the video where my youngest child dances on her knees in the living room, I was preoccupied by the fact that at 16 months of age, she still had yet to stand up and walk on her feet. I was so worried she would shuffle across the stage on her knees to receive her high school diploma that I failed to notice the way my older daughter tenderly held her little sister’s hands as they danced. I failed to notice the way my oldest child lovingly accepted her sister’s unique way of getting around.
In my worry, I lost a moment.
In the video where I took oldest daughter swimming for the first time with other mothers and their babies, I remember self-consciously trying to hide myself behind her little raft and become invisible. I was so distracted by my appearance in a bathing suit that I neglected to appreciate the way my first-born child joyfully splashed her little hands in the water, and how blessed I was to have such a supportive group of friends.
In my worry, I lost a moment.
My daughters and I watched video clips for an hour. We had just reached the year 2010 when I suddenly realized it was past their bedtime. I desperately wanted to keep watching to see if the theme of worry would slowly disappear from the pictures. You see, 2010 was the year of my breakdown breakthrough that propelled me on my “Hands Free” journey. I wanted to believe that if kept scrolling through the pictures and videos I would see a woman doing less worrying and more living. But as fate would have it, I would not look at pictures to see if I had made progress in letting go of worry; instead I would be tested.
The next day, I received several messages from concerned readers of my blog to inform me my website was not accessible. Sure enough, when I typed in my website address, I received a “fatal error” message. Fatal error. I had no idea such a ghastly term even existed. Although I was quite alarmed to see this message instead of my website, I couldn’t help but think that such a term was a tad bit dramatic for a technology problem. I couldn’t help but think the term “fatal error” should be reserved for situations far more serious.
I immediately called my web hosting company. The man from tech assistance began tapping away on his keyboard in an effort to uncover the problem. Within seconds, he reported there was good news, and there was bad news. The good news was, the problem could be fixed. The bad news was, it was out of their realm of services. Thankfully, I knew a technology guru that was pretty certain he could fix it, but it would have to wait until the next day.
That is when I knew I had a critical choice to make.
I could spend the next 24 hours worrying; I could worry about my readers not being able to access my site, about my zero stats, about whether or not the site could get fixed. I could worry about my content disappearing and whether or not I would I have to start over. I could worry the next 24 hours away, and in ten years I could look back on photos from this particular time period and see someone who looked like she was there, but really wasn’t.
I could live.
I could choose to focus on all that is going right in this precious day and let go of the undesirable circumstances of which I have no control. After all, through videos and pictures of my own precious life, I had witnessed the power of worry. Perhaps you, too, have experienced its destructive power:
Worry can remove you from the most beautiful moments of your life … as if you aren’t even there.
Worry can steal meaningful experiences right from your memory bank … as if they didn’t even happen.
Worry can prevent you from experiencing happiness, passion, and joy … as if you merely existed, rather than truly lived.
I decided worry had taken enough of my moments that matter—and would not be getting anymore.
So instead of obsessing over my broken website, I:
… played ‘Sorry’ with my 6-year-old
… watched my 9-year-old make a movie with her dolls
… worked with family and friends on an upcoming community event where shoebox gifts for children living in poverty will be created
… hiked in the sunshine with my children and their friends
… relished a long talk in the darkness with my husband
… enjoyed a cool evening run under the stars
In short, I lived the precious time that I was given instead of worrying those moments away. And in doing so, I realized this powerful truth: Everything I have ever worried about ends up being resolved one way or another despite my worrying.
My once barefooted, knee-shuffling youngest daughter now has no problem wearing shoes and walks on her feet. (She sometimes even sprints … to the ice cream truck.)
My once shy and introverted oldest daughter was recently described as a “social butterfly” by her second grade teacher. Her biggest problem now is trying not to talk to her neighbor.
My poor body image was shed with the help of exercise, adopting healthy eating habits, and developing a self-love for this imperfect body that hasn’t failed me yet.
Oh, and as you can see, my website was fixed. I think the term “fatal error” for technology problems is over-the-top. Most technology issues can be resolved, and if they can’t, it is certainly not the end of the world.
I think the term “fatal error” should be reserved for real life issues—like when worry becomes so distracting that it prevents you from living in each glorious moment at hand.
Because once that particular worry has been resolved, we cannot laugh and say, “Glad that’s over, now I can go back and enjoy everything I missed.”
Real life doesn’t work that way.
At best, you might be able to go back and watch lost moments through the capabilities of modern technology. But I think we can all agree, watching the best moments of your life happen on a screen pales in comparison to actually being there … mind, heart, body, and soul.
So my friends, my message today is simple: Be free.
Don’t make a fatal error by choosing to focus on what is wrong in your life rather than acknowledging all that is right and good.
Let go of that which you cannot control.
Let go and live.
Because of the daily emails I receive from dear readers of my blog, I know some of you are facing difficult circumstances and future uncertainties. The point of this post is not to minimize anyone’s worries, but rather to bring awareness about the detrimental power of worry. My hope is that today’s message will allow you to let go of the worries that threaten your ability to be present and prevent you from grasping what really matters—even if the freedom is only temporary.
“How would your life be different if … you stopped worrying about things you can’t control and started focusing on the things you can? Let today be the day … you free yourself from fruitless worry, seize the day and take effective action on things you can change.”- Steve Maraboli, author of Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Please feel free to share your thoughts below. Thank you for being a part of this supportive and uplifting community, my friends of The Hands Free Revolution.
The Less Worry, More Life by Hands Free Mama, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.