Following several days of pure bliss, I succumbed on Sunday to a few hours of good ol’ fashioned What If Anxiety. I kept forgetting to breathe, as my husband calls it. It was a trifecta of external stimuli: a couple of failed side dishes I had cooked for beloved friends (minor in the scheme of things but disappointing); a rouge, really violent hailstorm that did some mean damage to my beloved vegetable and flower gardens; and (the biggest What If of them all) waiting on health news regarding one of our most beloved young people.
I definitely kept forgetting to breathe. My mind kept rolling over the worst case scenarios for each of these, projecting into the future all the most terrible extrapolated consequences: They’ll never come to the farm for dinner again and probably think I am a kitchen fraud. I might as well give up gardening. I am definitely a fraud. She has something very wrong with her health but won’t reach out for help. Then I’d furiously resist those negative thoughts and scold myself for the struggle, because I know better than that by now. And that resistance created more tension. So I ate a second helping of dessert and got mad at myself for that too because vacation is over ma’am and you are so weak and also not a very good runner. Healthy living fraud.
Wow. Only one of those external stressors really mattered to life; but worry has a way of sneaking in through tiny openings to crack open the door and let the big stuff in. Have you ever been in such a tailspin?
As Sunday evening drew to a close, the biggest What If was silenced, and we went to bed thankful and exhausted. We were happy to be home and safe and ready to approach the threshold between all those previous days of bliss and the fresh, brand new work week. I muscled my thoughts back into the light. And I finally remembered to breathe.
Monday morning after Handsome left for the Commish, I plunged into all kinds of chores around the house, allowing the physical activity and sweetness of domesticity to drum up more positive vibes. Eventually Klaus and I walked around the farm, just to survey the storm damage with calmer eyes. The weather that morning was much more like early October than June. Bright and crisp, soft breezes, mellow. I could barely relate all of that crystalline brilliance to Sunday’s low, black canopy, woolly humidity, and violent wind and hail. I noticed a clarity inside myself, too. The storm had passed and everything felt fresh and good again.
The facts followed suit. Once I had the fortitude to really examine my gardens, I found only minor damage. Some broken vines and torn leaves, sure, and a few marshy beds that were begging for a stretch of warm sunshine to dry out. But all of it was more of a shakeup than a tragedy. And I had to laugh at my Yesterday Self for being so devastated at nothing. I also had to stop and give lots and lots of thanks for all the good news we had received concerning the much more important worries in life.
So I walked around correcting small injuries to various plants and re-threading tomato vines, harvesting slashed-off zucchini blossoms and deciding that the fallen stone fruits (still unripe) would be great to crush and feed to the hens.
I recalled so many other times in life when my worries turned out to be far scarier than reality. Often the anxiety can be quieted with just some time, some breathing, and lots of deliberate trust. Things really do tend to work out. But resisting fear is different than choosing faith.
How wonderful to remember all of this. The mental games of What If are powerful. It is up to each of us moment by moment to choose to put that power to good use. We can funnel our vast imaginations into fears and worries and extrapolate terrible future chains of events; or we can harness the same exact power inside ourselves and project incredible future outcomes.
We can visualize and aim for beauty, strength, success, progress, healing, connection, abundance, and miracles. We can see the damage and exaggerate it with our dim perspective; or we can see the damage and give thanks that so much can be recovered, that circumstances, just like the weather, can so suddenly turn around.
Choosing our thoughts matters, in case you need the reminder today like I could have used it on Sunday. Our thoughts can steer our feelings and our behavior. They can literally shape both our perspectives and our circumstances along the way.
Choose Joy. It won’t always come easily, but it is always available.
Choose Joy over and over again, no matter how things look and especially now matter how you feel, temporarily.
P.S. This blog post is dedicated to two of my best friends, who could not be more different from each other: Mickey, who had the presence of mind on Sunday to assure me that, in fact, some stress can strengthen plants and trees (so true). And Brittany, whose already gorgeous life is suddenly brimming with some mammoth What Ifs. I am down here in Oklahoma sending up magical possibilities and promises for you friend!
Magic is Real.
The Gardens will be Fine.
So Will She.