Have you ever held a fear deep in your shoulder muscles, so entrenched that it crept into your neck, making its way to the back of your brain, causing tension headaches?
When you are faced with something you have always secretly feared, this apprehension will blow up in your face. You will feel like someone died. Who died? No one. Your dread just surfaced and hit daylight. It was already buried beneath every single day. Someone spoke it out loud in the worst possible way. Your hope died, the wish that everything would work out in the end.
The voice in your head spoke through someone’s voice. The sound was loud and cruel. A friend pointed out, “You know she isn’t right. You think she is right, don’t you?”
I did. Part of me thought a stranger could judge my child. Could look at her and compare my apple to oranges. Since this day, I feel like a one-woman processing machine. When I am with Annie, I see delight, smartness, persistence, and humor. When I am apart from her, I hear this woman’s words in my head. “Bottom of the class; our work cut out for us.”
It has been weeks since I heard these remarkable sentences. I have felt them deep within my body. Not until last night did I realize how I am holding on to them. Oh, I knew I have been clenching my teeth at night, waking up with a tight jaw. But I thought I was dealing well enough.
Then the headaches came, quiet pain at the back of my brain. This ache weaved into my days, not a big cause for concern. I told my yoga teacher about this hurt, hoping she would have a solution.
“Maybe you have muscle tension in your neck and shoulders,” she said. Well, I had not really noticed this, although I had weird aches everywhere else. My yoga guru put her hand on my neck during a pose, saying, “Yes, you are so tight.”
Until she placed her hand there, I did not realize I was holding so much stuff in my neck and shoulder muscles. I believed I was releasing lots of the terror, the dreaded spoken words, the heartache. As soon as I felt that tightness underneath her fingertips, though, I knew. I am keeping those untrue words and all the fear surrounding them.
I am one of those people who shares my worry freely. Sometimes people tell me I should hold my ideas closer. Then I won’t risk other people’s judgment or unwanted answers. But all this talking helps me think through issues. I talk, I write, I run, I meditate, I do yoga. I thought all of these activities was enough to ease all my anxiety.
These words uttered about my daughter’s learning skills have made me realize I need to do one more action item. I need to let go. I have to pull this fear out from inside of my neck and shoulders. I have to examine it closely and see why I am so scared. And then I have to release it.
Some might say I have to give it to God. “Let go and let God in,” they say. God is one of those ideas that has mostly felt foreign to me. Let this guy with a grey beard take this worry from me and transform it, solve it, make it OK. The truth of the matter is that I can’t hold onto this fear anymore. If I hold it tight, I can’t let Annie figure out her own way in the world. I can’t help her navigate school and learning. I can’t show her all of her beauty and wisdom and knowing.
But I can’t let this strange notion of the divine take this from me. I find myself redefining God, giving this concept a makeover. God is the benevolent universe and its good energy. God is Jill, the mom that works in Annie’s classroom and sees Annie for the wonderful joy she really is. God is Lori, the mom who volunteers in the library. Just one hour ago, I told her those words the teacher said to me. She took them from me. She cried. She held me in that moment and part of those words were erased. God is my tears, letting this grief disperse as they fall from my eyes. God is all around me, taking this fear from me so I can stand strong. And get rid of this annoying headache. God needs a new name. I’ll get back to you on that one. Maybe I’ll use the name of my massage therapist who will also work these knots out of my neck. “Let go and let Sarah in,” I say.