Living in the here and now

Rhonda was sitting at the table with a cup of tea when Philip walked into the kitchen.  

“What if Ellen’s preschool teacher—what’s her name again?—decides to leave after she gets married?  Ellen will be so upset; she really loves whatshername.”  His face was clearly troubled.

Rhonda looked up from her teacup and frowned.  “What are you talking about?  She only just told the class on Friday that she got engaged.”

“But what if they decide to elope and what if she gets pregnant right away?  She might not want to keep teaching.  Or what if her new husband gets a job in another state?”  She could see his anxiety mounting rapidly.

“Philip, get a grip.  Even if any of those things were to happen, you can’t influence or control any of it.”  This only seemed to make him more anxious.

“But Ellen would be so sad.”  His face was so sad for Ellen’s projected sadness that she couldn’t help but be touched.  She spoke gently.

“That’s probably true.  She adores Miss Frebush.  But you still can’t change it.  IF it happens, we’ll just have to deal with it then.  It’s not like there’s anything to do now to prepare for something that might not even happen ever.”

“But her little face would get all scrunched up and sad.”  Rhonda smiled lovingly at her husband, whose own face was scrunched up sympathetically.

“Philip, you are a wonderful and sensitive father; and I love that about you.  But Ellen will get over it, IF it happens.  We’ll just have to deal with it then.  And there’s no functional value to worrying now about then.”

“I suppose you’re right.  But are you sure we shouldn’t be prepared somehow?”  He looked at her hopefully, wanting there to be something he could do to protect his beloved daughter from life’s disappointments and losses.

Rhonda frowned thoughtfully.  “I’m not sure what you have in mind, Philip.  You can’t either predict or control Miss Frebush’s plans.  You have no idea what she may in fact end up doing.  Right now Ellen is all excited for her favorite teacher; she’s happy.  It would seem pretty stupid to make her UN-happy now to prepare her for some eventuality that may never happen.”

“Well, whenyou put it that way, it does sound pretty stupid.”  He seemed embarrassed.

“You are a sweetie, Philip, to worry about Ellen’s feelings.  And if something happens, with Miss Frebush or anything else, that makes her unhappy, I know you’ll be there to comfort her at the time.  We both will be.  In the meantime, how about we all just enjoy the moment?”  She spoke encouragingly, hoping to free him from his worry.

“You think I’m silly, don’t you?”  

“No, I think you’re sweet.  And when your worrying helps us to prepare in some useful way for something, I value it – like when you made sure that we had new batteries for all the smoke detectors and emergency flashlights.  That was useful.   It had a functional purpose.  But this is different.  Worrying in this case accomplishes nothing except to make you feel bad now.  It takes something away and gives nothing in return.  That’s what I think is silly.”  She smiled at him affectionately to lighten the tone of her words.  He listened and thought about what she was saying, forced to agree with her assessment.

“So what do you suggest I do when the worry comes?  My imagination does tend to work overtime you know,” he said ruefully.

She stood up and walked over to him.  She put her arms around him and hugged him.

“I suggest that you exhale slowly and deeply, breathing out all your worry, and remind yourself that whatever happens we can deal with it then.”

“Well, that makes sense.  It’s what we’d do anyway.”  His frown relaxed as he hugged her back.  “So my new mantra is ‘relax, we’ll deal’.  What do you think?”  He smiled down at her upturned face.  She smiled back, kissed him, and was pleased for this moment of peace.  She knew that the worry would revisit him; it was his nature.  But she was hopeful that he’d remember his way back to “relax, we’ll deal”.

Dr Benna Sherman

Dr Benna Sherman

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