As many of you know, I left a job as Executive Director of an assisted living community earlier this year. Shortly thereafter, my grandfather passed away at the age of 89. He has been my hero since I can remember, and I am very fortunate to have had a wonderful set of grandparents my entire life. As the first grandchild and only girl, you can imagine how “special” I was (we don’t say spoiled, but let me tell ya, they sure made me feel like the most important person in the world.) Summers spent with them at their farm were my greatest childhood memories.
After Pap-paw’s passing, our family soon realized my grandmother would thrive best in a senior living community. She too, was excited to make the move. The farm held so many memories and she saw her husband of 67 years everywhere. She was ready to be in a place where socialization was offered, and her safety and security guaranteed. In the process of choosing a community for her, the family looked to me for guidance. Being on the other side of such a decision was an interesting experience, but also one I felt confident in navigating.
Family portrait circa 1989
I know far too well how difficult it is for seniors to see their belongings leave their house. Mam-maw kindly accepted my advice and stayed with her sister while the family prepared for her transition. My husband and I stayed at the farmhouse the night before the big move. We helped pack her things and uncovered treasures and mementos that I don’t believe had been touched in years. While this process was hard, it was also very necessary and provided me personally with much needed closure. Finding copies of my old report cards, notes I had written them from college, newspaper clippings from my school days, and items from my mother’s childhood brought me to tears.
One very special memory was especially evoked and relived when I discovered a shiny black rock sitting in a typical “junk” drawer. I flashbacked to being a little girl visiting the farm, telling my grandmother I was upset. She asked, “Do you want to hold the worry rock?” I remember nodding my head and her going to retrieve it.
The worry rock. Dear, worry rock. I had forgotten about you.
Myself and Mam-maw
As I clutched the smooth rectangular stone, I was reminded of my propensity worry…I worry about what tomorrow will bring… if I am living the way I should… if I am being the best I can… how the world around me is suffering… how justice isn’t served in so many ways… I can go on and on.
Just like my grandmother, I am anxiety-prone… which is a not uncommon if you’re 1) an adult and 2) you’re breathing. These last few months (especially after leaving a huge corporate job) have felt so uncertain for me. I’ve had to learn to sit in the discomfort and unknown. Type A personalities find this torturous.
Brene Brown defines worry as “a chain of negative thoughts about bad things that might happen.” And guess what? Those bad things…typically don’t happen. Lately when I find my body and mind telling me anxiety is the only way to feel, I stop. I take a deliberate deep breath. And I thank it. I thank it for trying to protect me… and then I tell it that I’m fine. It’s not needed. I also remind myself, “Present moment, wonderful moment…” Philosophers tell us living in the past creates depression and living in the future can buildanxiety. Why is it so hard to meet ourselves where we are? The present moment is all we really have.
I am grateful for the discovery of this symbolic token. And I’m encouraged to look for the things every day that remind me I am okay. I am in the present. I am stronger than my anxiety.
The worry rock, rediscovered
The famous worry rock now sits on my desk as a reminder of the little girl who worried, and the big girl who knows the importance of living in the moment.
There is a song by Carrie Newcomer titled, “Learning to Sit with Not Knowing.” This piece has been incredibly helpful to me this year, and I’ll end with an excerpt from it.
I’m learning to sit with not knowing
When I don’t see where it’s going
Cool my heels and start slowing
I am learning to sit with not knowing
I’m learning to sit with what’s next
What if and my best guess
Be kinder when it’s a process
I’m learning to live with what’s next
Here’s a clear space I’ve chosen
Where the denseness of this world opens
Where there’s something holding steady and true
Regardless of me or you