Halloween. Ghouls and goblins. Haunted houses. October has become synonymous with fear. And as I looked ahead on the editorial calendar, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about this month: the fear of releasing my one and only baby girl into the unknown world of preschool. Watching my tearful daughter walk reluctantly through the gates (and away from me) on her first day would be terrifying for both of us. She would be left to fend for herself, and I would be paralyzed by the powerlessness of not being able to provide constant reassurance or help her navigate an unfamiliar environment and new relationships.
I had brainstormed all manner of ways to help her process the transition. I was ready to lavish with love and compassion. I devised strategies to ease her anxiety and bolster confidence. But the day came and went with none of the expected fear (at least for her). And today - more than three weeks in - nothing has changed. She loves it.
I'm embarrassed to admit her enthusiasm and confidence has proven more unsettling than the drama I anticipated. I was ready to help! I had it all figured out. This was my moment to be "Supermama!" But that isn't how it unfolded. In true toddler fashion, she embraced the moment and found joy. While in true mama fashion, I overthought and over-prepared and ended up overwhelmed.
Much of our fear and anxiety stems from what we don't know. But even more of our pain and frustration comes from trying to control outcomes over which we have no power. When approaching new situations, we do everything we can to ready ourselves and create an action plan, but as often as not, our work amounts to wasted time and energy.
How many times have you diligently prepared for an expected outcome only to find yourself caught flat footed when things turned out differently? Perhaps it was the job interview for which you studied the company, its product, and its culture but became tongue tied when asked, "Why do you want to work here?" Or the challenging conversation you rehearsed over and over only to find the conflict easily resolved.
What if - instead of spending so much time and energy preparing for the worst - we focused on responding with grace to whatever comes our way? We will all eventually face the "unknown unknowns" of life, but they needn't be a source of fear. It is good to be prepared, but it is even more important to be present. Only when we are able to stand in the middle of the marketplace with all its sound and fury and be still can we summon the courage the situation requires.
Next time you find yourself growing anxious about an upcoming transition or unknown environment, can you pause in your preparations and power plays and simply be present? You just might find you have everything you need - and discover some joy along the way.