When my daughter was one year old, we purchased a teddy bear for her at a craft fair. We did not have the parenting wisdom to recognize that a one-of-a-kind, delicate, hand made creation was perhaps not the best choice for an infant's best friend. "Al" has been dragged around town and across the country - joining my daughter for every nap and bedtime, and has served as a proactive source of reassurance for many an anxious moment. As a result, poor Al has endured countless surgeries, wardrobe additions intended to disguise his increasing maladies, and the eventual loss of an arm. We have tried to substitute other friends over the years or persuade her to allow Al an early retirement, but to no avail. There is simply no replacement for her dear friend and the comfort he provides.
It is a common story line, and one we all likely have experienced at some point. Most of us have little things - material or otherwise - we cling to for comfort in moments of anxiety. As a new teacher, I recall writing out a full script for every yoga class I taught. Over time, the word-by-word verbal cueing guide gave way to a description of the sequence I planned to teach, then to a simple list of poses or a note about the theme. Even though I no longer refer to my notes while teaching, I still fall back on the process when I need a confidence boost.
Elite athletes confess to relying on a specific song they simpy "must" listen to prior to a competition - or have established a precisely plotted pre-game ritual that adds to their mental strength. They know in their minds their performance is unaffected by any talisman, but they return to it nonetheless.
Whether or not you care to admit it, chances are you also have a teddy bear - something that adds an extra measure of confidence at critical moments. Perhaps it is the photo of a loved one who has passed on that helps you remember the importance of using the time you have wisely - or a sunshine file that brings a smile when you are feeling down. Irrespective of the form it takes, these little encouragements can help us take challenging days in stride and summon the courage to press on.
As we enter the final countdown to the end of the year, anxiety is common. A new year can seem daunting: will we get things right this time? Are we finally ready to take that important step forward? If you find yourself apprehensive, go ahead - reach for your teddy bear. Draw comfort from its familiar security and move forward with confidence.