Last week my 7-year-old son had to have surgery. Just a minor procedure. Everything went fine and he’s already back in school.
But I do have to admit that the whole experience was slightly terrifying for me. For the entire hour and a half while he was in surgery, I was overcome by complete and total fear. What if? What if? What if? I held my breath until the moment the doctor came out and said casually, “Everything went fine.” Deep exhale.
Being gripped by such a frightening feeling has really gotten me thinking these last few days. I realized that as I’ve gotten older, I experience fear a lot more than I used to. What if this plane crashes? What if our car rolls off the edge of this super tall bridge? What if my child’s routine surgery has major complications? I can’t help but wonder why I let my brain go to those places.
What happened to me? I used to be so carefree. I married my husband right out of college and we moved many times. Each time farther and farther away from my family. When we got transferred to Europe for three years, I did not have one ounce of hesitation. Yes! Let’s go! Let’s see the world! I didn’t even look back.
And while we were living there, he traveled a lot so I was quite often alone, walking the streets of Frankfurt or sitting in cafes by myself, not understanding a word anyone was speaking around me. I was never scared. I was courageous and strong.
As I was thinking about this old self of mine, something hit me. I was not so much courageous in those days as I was fearless. There’s a big difference. I was young and nothing bad had ever happened to me. I didn’t yet know the pain of losing my beloved Mother or the shock of the phone call telling me my Father had died. I didn’t know what it was like yet to have a loved one ripped away from me. Fear has a way of creeping in.
I’ve often heard that with great love comes great fear. Being a Mother has made me fearful. But I also realize that it has made me stronger and more courageous than I have ever been. I think real courage is experiencing fear and facing it head on.
So I have decided to give myself a little more credit. Instead of thinking of myself as more fearful, I am going to start thinking of myself as more courageous. And I will continue to plow ahead in the face of all my fears. I believe this is what getting older and wiser is all about. At least that’s what I hope.