A few weeks ago my husband and I were sitting in the Saturday night session of Stake Conference, enjoying some quiet time away from the kiddies, when my husband’s phone vibrated. “It’s home,” he said, and slipped outside to take the call. We’d left our thirteen-year-old son in charge of himself and our ten-year-old daughter and our daughter’s friend, with instructions to call my husband’s cell phone if, heaven forbid, an emergency arose. The three kids were heading outside to play soccer in the twilight as we’d driven away and I was a little nervous about leaving them playing in the yard; so, while my husband was out in the hall on the phone, I felt a prickle of fear. Had the dog run away again? Had someone fallen out of a tree? I pictured skinned knees and bloody noses and broken arms. But then my husband didn’t come back, and, as the conference speaker droned on, I jumped from picturing possible mishaps to outright disasters. Had the call been so urgent that my husband had flung himself in the car and driven home? Was the house on fire? Had my daughter or her friend drowned in the river? I could almost hear the terrifying wail of sirens approaching my house as I worked myself up into full-blown panic mode. Finally, just as I was about to jump up and run out of the room myself, the speaker ended his talk and my husband slid quietly back into his seat.
“Where were you?” I hissed.
“I didn’t want to interrupt the speaker,” my husband said, “so I’ve been waiting out in the hall until the end of his talk.”
Turns out that the emergency was that my son wanted to watch Bolt but didn’t know where the DVD was. It took twenty minutes for my heart rate to return to normal.
Apparently, my son and I have different definitions of “emergency.” But there’s a bigger problem here: for as long as I can remember, no matter what the situation, I’ve always imagined the worst. Consider this entry from my diary, written in 1974, when I was thirteen: “They say we’re heading for another Depression this year. Also, World War III is going to start this year, so it looks like bad times ahead. The end is near, and we’re preparing.” (Sounds like some newspaper headlines I’ve read lately.) I think it’s safe to say that I was an anxious child and teenager. And then when I became a mother, and I was responsible for adorable new little people whose fates I couldn’t always control, fear became my constant companion.
I’ve tried to get a handle on this. Counseling has helped. Reading self-help books sometimes helps; Fear and Other Uninvited Guests is actually the title of a book I bought several years ago, by Harriet Lerner, in my quest to be less anxiety-ridden. Prayer and scripture study and drinking deeply from the counsel of current prophets help a lot. But sometimes–more often than I want to admit–when fear knocks at my door, I not only grudgingly let him in, I often invite him in, provide him with a cozy guest room and clean towels, offer him a cup of herbal tea while we sit down to chat.
Lately, with so much bad news encircling us, with a failing economy and natural disasters and wars all over the world and now a potential swine flu pandemic (seriously? swine flu?), not to mention the personal challenges each of us is facing, fear has taken up permanent residence in my house. And it’s becoming more difficult to replace fear with faith, as President Monson counseled in General Conference a few weeks ago. So, here’s what I want to know: Is fear one of your uninvited guests? If so, what do you think would help you be less afraid? If you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t struggle with fear, what helps you not be fearful? What valuable lessons did you learn in your youth about overcoming fear? And how can we help our children be less fearful, especially in these challenging times? Please share your thoughts, including favorite scriptures/counsel.