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Let your soul be wild and free my little one

I have pondered the nature vs nurture debate quite often when it comes to my anxiety. It always seemed that nurture would win in the cause category until recently. If I were to make a list of MY anxiety, it may still beat out another hypothesis as the root cause, but I am learning, in the parenting game, things are not always what they seem. I know one thing for certain. Someone without anxiety cannot understand another person trying to explain the reasons why and how to them, which make dealing with it quite lonely at times.

I contributed most of my anxiety issues to my grandmother. I learned as an adult, due to multiple tragedies in her life she had much to be anxious about. But when I stayed with her a lot growing up I didn’t understand that. As my anxiety began to take hold, I thought it must be because I was exposed to hers so much. Then I learned my daddy has it too, which would make sense. Except, except I never knew growing up my Daddy had anxiety.?

Now I see my seven year old experience it. She has exhibited signs since a young age and it manifest in different ways. But, I make a very contentious effort NOT to expose her to my anxiety. So much so that I have other family members help rationalize situations for me so I do not let it get the best of me. Believe me, I’ve come a long way since she was an infant! But to see her with it breaks my heart because I know how she feels. Could it be a manipulation at times? Sure, I am aware of that, just as I am aware of what true anxiety looks like on the face of my seven year old.

My husband, as great as he is, is not someone who understands. Oh sure, he understands my anxiety for the super Center and that look I get when I am about to melt down. But he doesn’t understand this gut wrenching, deep breathing anxiety. The kind that has kept me up all night to write this at 4:15 a.m

I only hope she can hold on to the parts of her soul that are wild and carefree. The parts that laugh at everything with a giggle that can warm the coldest of souls. The wander I see in her eyes as she studies something with her mind working on how it may operate. I want her to hold onto the part that operates on stuffed animals with ketchup and gloves and leave the heavy burden of anxiety to me. I’m her mama, her keeper, I can carry the load for us both.

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I remember what cheerleading taught me….

(photo credit)

Some of you may wonder what cheerleading and the main photo of this post have in common. Believe me when I say, A LOT!!! After the last month or so of anxiety ridden day and nights wondering what to do, I finally took a breath, prayed, had others prayed, and the memory of what happened during 9th and 10th grade reminded me to slow down and take a step back. I remember the last time I did something hastily and without really thinking it through and what the results were. Enter the cheerleading reference.

I never have been an alpha girl. A mean girl. None of the cliques found me interesting enough or fitting enough to really “fit” in. But, I was a dancer! I loved to dance and learned to do basic gymnastics also. I remember sitting in the gym one day during the football season of 9th grade watching the cheerleaders lead the Pep Rally. All my friends who also did not have an identity but longed to be a part of that “cool kid club” went on and on about how they were going to be a cheerleader. It was the topic of so many lunch room table conversations, locker meetings, and standing around trying to be noticed that I got sick and tired of hearing about it. Why you ask? Not once did these conversations ever actually involve me. These friends talked around me about trying out for cheerleading like it was not even a possibility that I would want to or even could try out. Now, in their defense I could understand how I may have given off the impression that I was defiantly not interested in being a part of “that” group, but what really made my red hair turn fiery was the attitude that I couldn’t do it. The fact that I could dance circles around these girls and I could do gymnastics just seemed to fall by the way side.

So, what does a young, red-head with a temper and full of pride do? Well of course the first thing I thought is, “well I’ll show them”. That’s right, the dark horse signed up for cheerleading tryout for the Varsity squad. Gasps could be heard throughout the halls for days. Not only was I a nobody, but I was a nobody that used to be an overweight nobody and that is how EVERYONE still saw me even if I had bones sticking out of my neck. Yes, the pride in me of knowing that I COULD dance, and that I COULD do gymnastics, and yes, I COULD be a cheerleader put my name on that sign up sheet.  I showed up, rocked it, did a back hand spring, (the only one I might add) and sat back and waited for the results to be posted after school got out for the summer.

I can remember my mama driving to the front of the school where you could see the flyer taped to the front doors flapping in the wind. I casually got out, because I really could care less either way. Of course I wanted to do it to say I could, but if I didn’t make it my life wasn’t going to be crushed. This wasn’t a Lifetime movie moment. A few other girls who had devoted their lives to the Junior Varsity squad were pulling up at the same time. They of course spoke in a “why are you here, you know you didn’t make it” kind of tone as we walked up the steps to view the list. There it was, about 2 names down, MY name. “Uh”, was really my first thought. Then it was replaced with a little giddiness and I can still remember the faces of those other girls as they had to say, “you made it”. Not sure if they were congratulating me or questioning me. And so it started.

Endless fundraisers, nightly practices, weekend practices, poster making, ribbon making, the list goes on and on and this was just the summer BEFORE school started again. Then it was decorating the gym, gifts for the football players, and of course the Pep Rally. Every Friday night!!!! And we had to wear I hair all the same with the same ribbon. Really? What had I done? Was proving that I was a good dancer worth all this? My saving grace, so I thought, was that we had a TERRIBLE football team and our season would be over soon. Then someone broke the news to me that we also cheered during basketball games too. I could have died!

Finally the end of basketball season! It was over. I do have the “I used to be a cheerleader” comment in my back pocket for those conversations when you need to blurt out useless information. And, I did get a chance to cheer where High School playoffs are played because our squad was the first squad from our school to win Regional Championship and advance to State Championship (no such luck there). But, the most important thing I learned is that pride will get you into trouble. I should not have been so prideful about being able to dance and having the “I’ll show everybody” attitude. That prideful thought led to a year of misery!

While I rushed around trying to figure out my mid-life crisis degree, registering for those classes, and figuring out what I would do about work I was reminded of this. I thought about why I wanted to go back to school. The answer is, I do want to go back to school, and it has nothing to do with pride. But, I was rushing to do it in such a short period just to prove that I could. That has everything to do with pride. I’m not exactly sure who I was trying to prove it to. Probably the same people I proved to that I could cheer-people who really don’t care in the first place. So, after thinking about this lesson and reflecting on my urgency to get school done in two semesters I’ve decided to just slow down. I will still go back to school. I will still get out of the jar. But, I’ve learned that the view in the jar isn’t too bad and it’s not as bad as my view on the outside would be if I only escaped using my pride.