on fear and feeling

I’m writing in some stolen moments this week to get a few things out. There’s a change in the weather a bit, and the academic year is picking up. There’s a change in me too, somehow. I feel life moving forward, turning a page. I think it’s the one-year mark I am nearing, and it is set against the backdrop of this time of year when even nature reminds us that a chapter is closing. Letting the dead things fall is sometimes more beautiful than you expect it to be. I hope to feel lighter and lighter as the leaves change this year. Dead weight shedding from my own life. Making way for new skin.

Jude had his tonsils and adenoids removed on Monday. It’s a simple procedure, and kids get it done all the time. It’s his fall break this week, and I scheduled it now so that he wouldn’t be missing much school as a result. I’ve been anxious about it as I’m the first to admit I carry a little bit of an anesthesia phobia. (Hence that time I had a baby in a bathtub.) I woke him on Monday morning long before the sun and loaded him in the car to drive to the surgery center.

When we got there, I was blessed with a familiar face as my good friend and I figured out a little while prior that both of our kids were having procedures done that day. Their surgery was 2 hours before ours, so we didn’t get a lot of time together, but seeing her smiling face was such a clear reminder that I am not alone in this. And it was the most bizarre coincidence that we even ended up there together. We are in two different school systems, so she wasn’t scheduling around fall break as I was, and our kids were having different procedures performed by different doctors. And yet we ended up in the same waiting room.

Nothing is an accident. I’ve come to believe this so strongly in my recent year. Life places before us exactly what we need at the exact time that we need it. You just have to open your eyes to see the magic of timing even when it doesn’t at all coincide with your expectations.

So we went back to the pre-op room and got him in the gown to bribe him to choke down his meds, and they allowed me to accompany him to the OR to hold his hands as the anesthesia mask set in. Once he was safely asleep, I should leave and wait and they’d come find me. I knew it would be a little creepy, but I expected after our many conversations on what to expect that he’d just lie there while I comforted him and go to sleep calmly under the mask.

That is not at all what happened. He refused the mask, and they had to hold it on him. He was panicked and screaming and I was holding his hands. He wouldn’t connect with my eyes the way I wished he would, and he was darting all around the room with his anxious glance. The florescent lights and sterile smell of an OR. Panicked little boy on the operating table. Then just like that his little eyes closed and his screaming stopped. It’s only tonsil surgery. I knew he’d be fine. But I walked out of that operating room with such a lump in my throat.

I only waited 25 minutes before hearing from the surgeon that it all went well. Only another half hour after that before they wheeled him to me, all groggy and confused and sweet and tired. But during that hour, my mind went to the what if, what if, what if place that parents know all too well. And my thoughts meandered to parents who sit in waiting rooms with much more serious procedures and less guaranteed outcomes. It is hard. Having a child feels like part of you is just raw and open almost all the time. What I did before I had these two and where I’d be without them is something I cannot comprehend.

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It’s exhausting sometimes, isn’t it? Just to be a thinking and feeling person in the world. I think and feel too much, it seems. I’ve spent much of my life wishing I didn’t think so much, wishing I felt less deeply – because truthfully I can look at people who don’t think and do not feel below the surface level, and their lives look so much easier at times.

I was listening to Rob Bell recently (love his podcast), and he talked a bit about what he calls “the wisdom that lies beyond wisdom.” We have the first “wisdom,” the lessons we all want to know and teach our kids: be kind, work hard, choose a partner carefully, make good choices, take care of yourself, etc. Then we have the wisdom that lies beyond that. The wisdom that only comes when you do all those things and it still falls apart. That’s when you realize that really all that matters is now. That bad things happen to good people. That it is up to us to make the meaning of them.

There is no value in living in the past or wishing for the future. I’m realizing how tenuous it all is. All of it. None of us can say oh, that would never happen to me because there are no guarantees like that. Life never stops surprising me.

I’ve been so afraid (and in weak moments, I still am) that events in my life would leave me weaker than they found me, would leave me incapable of doing certain things in the future – like loving or trusting or feeling joy. I’m finding that the opposite is true though. I am a better lover than ever. Not in the modern vernacular sense of lover, obviously. But in that I love and love and love without expectation now. Loving on my kids, my experiences, my friends, and these singular passing moments in my life that won’t happen again. Because who knows where any of this is going or what lies ahead, and does that matter anyway? I can sink into a moment without wondering how it fits in some grand scheme. I can be grateful for the now without expectation of the next moment.

I look at Jude’s experience this week and think about how scared and panicked he was, how he looked for me when he woke up. How he needed me to be there and say things were good and not scary. And of course, I knew that it was simple and not scary, but now I also know deep down that really everything is scary. All the good stuff anyway. And as a kid, I think you assume that you grow up to feel in control at all times and never feel scared or vulnerable.

But feeling and thinking and staying open in a world with no guarantees is the opposite of fearlessness. I’m learning how good it feels to let it all in, to feel alive as all the dead weight sheds away.

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2 thoughts on “on fear and feeling

  1. Wow, Katie. First of all, this post is beautiful. The way Jude’s experience is woven in to our vulnerability and our surrender to fear and how liberating that idea can feel once it’s said or written is so well done here. I am so glad that his surgery went well and feel so happy that our friend was by no accident there with you and giving you strength while she went through it. We have to go through it to get through it. Also, some of my favorite lines are here:”It’s exhausting sometimes, isn’t it? Just to be a thinking and feeling person in the world. I think and feel too much, it seems. I’ve spent much of my life wishing I didn’t think so much, wishing I felt less deeply – because truthfully I can look at people who don’t think and do not feel below the surface level, and their lives look so much easier at times.” So honest. I have thought on this and tried to communicate this in varying ways over the last year. You’ve said it so well here. Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing and feeling and, like a cool person once told me, being a mirror and a window.

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