Love and Anxiety are inseparable.
I know that now, and though it sounds kind of depressing, it’s probably one of my most enlightened pronouncements to date.
You meet someone who can potentially be ‘the one’ and you become anxious that it might be unrequited.
You both fall in love, enter into a relationship and you feel anxious that your partner might not be as committed as you are.
We go about our daily lives doing our best to suspend all sense of anxiety that something bad might suddenly happen to our friends and family. It’s worse if they live far away from you.
I can belabor the point I’m making but I’m sure you get my drift.
As a parent I know that no matter how I want to rid myself of anxiety when it comes to my son, I know it can never be possible. Sure we all have varying degrees of anxiety, and by no means am I saying that good parenting requires it. All I’m saying here is that love implies vulnerability. As such it’s natural to feel some degree of fear or discomfort. After all, it IS your heart (and soul) that’s on the line. The key is simply to not be defeated by that fear and learn to focus, as best you can, on the far greater rewards of surrendering openly to love, with all its messy sidekicks. This is a lesson I feel I’m perpetually working on and fortunately, Life doesn’t seem to tire of giving me exercises.
Just last weekend, one of my son’s classmates hosted a skating birthday party. Noah doesn’t know how to skate but he was excited about it. It was to be his second time at a skating rink. At first, my husband and I insisted that he use a skate mate to help him balance a bit and maybe give him some confidence. He tried it for a while. After a couple of laps though, he decided to do without it. I thought he was done and getting too tired but then he said, “No Mama. Just skate with me and hold my hand.”
I was proud that he wanted to persevere, that he wasn't overcome with the fear of falling or being embarrassed even. But I was also afraid that he might hurt himself. We started out holding each other’s hands. I kept giving him reminders.
“Go slow”. “Don’t lean back”. “Bend your knees and try to find your balance”.
After a while, he said, "Don't hold me anymore, but stay there".
I let go of his hand slowly as I assured him, "Mommy's just here okay? Just grab my hand when you feel you need to. I'll be here."
At that point, I knew I was having a parenting lesson moment, a lesson on loving. I'm not doing my son any favors by never letting him go. I'm not doing him any favors by overprotecting him and keeping him from all falls and bruises and pains. It's not even at all possible for me to do that. The loving thing to do is to release him and let him experience things, while giving him whatever guidance I can offer and assure him that I will be close by when he needs me; that when he reaches out, my hand will be there. We might fall together, or it might just be him who'll get hurt. (Sometimes, what we all need is to experience the fall in order to learn). But still, I will be there to help him, or at least comfort him and say, "I'm still here, no matter what".
The truth is, it wasn’t only Noah who was conquering his fears. I was probably more afraid than he was, as I let go of his hand and let him go without me. Letting go is never really easy, for anybody. But seeing him conquering his fear helped. And maybe him seeing my willingness to let him go helped fuel his courage as well.
In love and relationships, that’s really all we can do, isn’t it? When we know we have each other’s hearts, all we can do is give those hearts as much care as we can while at the same time, treading forward, going on our respective paths, taking care not to fall and shatter ourselves and our loved ones to pieces. There’s no such thing as a fall- and bruise-free life, especially when you love.
And when you love, you are connected; even when you let go; even when your paths diverge. One’s fall, or pain, is as much the other’s. Connection, or vulnerability, dictates that. But it truly helps to know that a hand will be there to support you, or cushion your fall, if possible. It always helps to know, it always gives us courage when we are certain that there is someone there who trusts us with their heart and who holds our heart in turn. And if you still fall, it still helps to know that there’ll be someone there to say, “I’m still here, no matter what."