Off to the Races!

Erin and me . . . almost thirty years ago!

I was about to head out the door one Saturday morning to set up my dealer table at a baseball card show. I looked up and there was my six-year-old daughter, who I thought was still sleeping, coming down the stairs in her nightgown to give me a hug goodbye. Her gesture was so sweet and thoughtful and she looked so angelic that the image of her standing on the third step is burned into my mind.

On my way to the show, I was happily visualizing Erin sitting on the couch watching cartoons and eating cereal, which she had said she was going to fixherself since her mom wasn’t up yet.

And then it happened. The thought that she might choke on her cereal popped into my mind and immediately consumed me. It was an irrational, obsessive thought that I couldn’t get out of my head. Her mom was still in bed and wouldn’t hear her! Oh, my God, why did I leave her alone? With my mind and my heart racing, I pulled into a gas station and called home. When Erin answered, the tension and anxiety instantly drained out of me. Thank you, God!

Fortunately, over the years, I’ve only experienced a handful of ridiculously absurd jolts of panic like that. Now that Erin will be thirty-one in a month, I thought such fears were behind me. I was wrong.

Last night, after briefly speaking to Erin, I got ready for bed and turned off the light. As I lay in bed, I remembered that Erin said she was about to fix a late dinner . . . and boom!, my mind was off to the races. What if she cooked some meat and didn’t chew a tough piece thoroughly enough? She’s all alone and there won’t be time to call 911! I tried to banish the thoughts to no avail. I finally got up, texted her and then called her. No answer. Trying to remain calm, I waited nearly ten minutes and tried again. Nothing.

Sleep was now an impossibility. At 10:30 I called Erin’s mom, who was only a few miles from her, and said, almost apologetically, “I’m having an irrational fear.” She could relate.  She stayed calm and centered, but said that she would be happy to drive to Erin’s place to check on her.

I waited a few more minutes and called again . . . Erin answered! Hallelujah! She was okay! She was a tad annoyed but very understanding. I asked her to call her mom and tell her to turn the car around. I felt quite sheepish and foolish. After all, my kid is almost thirty-one years old! I think she knows how to chew safely by now.

Reflecting on the episode, I couldn’t help shaking my head . . . with equal parts disbelief and amusement. I trust in divine wisdom and try to live in alignment with spiritual principles. I firmly believe that life unfolds according to a greater plan and that it’s possible to maintain equanimity even in the most chaotic of moments. For the most part, I’m able to live like that pretty consistently.

But not when it comes to my kid’s safety. Then it all goes out the window. Obviously, I’ve got lots of inner work to do. All I can do is the best I can do, learn from my setbacks and keep moving.

The point is, don’t expect perfection from yourself. No matter how “spiritual” and high-minded you may think you are, we are all frail, flawed human beings. We all have our shortcomings. We all have our moments when we lose our bearings and do something regrettable. Go easy on yourself and leave the perfection to whatever force is governing this universe we call home.

Hmmm, just had a thought. I think I’ll buy Erin a blender!






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6 Responses to “Off to the Races!”

  1. Mary Says:

    I hear you! My mom died very unexpectedly in 1974 (brain aneurysm). When you get blindsided like that, you’re like “anything can happen any time”! For a year I wouldn’t get on an elevator with my 6-year-old daughter. When planes flew over, I thought they were going to bomb us. Same thing when my dad was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. My boys were in Mennonite day care — safe as could be — but the building was old and I had out-of-the-blue fears that the furnace would blow up.

    Now I never worry — there’s way too much to worry about, I’d be a wreck. I have the serenity I always prayed for. But I have to work on that “abundance” thing…. M

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank goodness you overcame your fears, Mary. Glad you’ve found serenity!

  3. John C. A. Manley | MetaphysicalSF.com Says:

    Making mistakes is just part of developing real intuition.

    Who knows? Maybe she was actually going to choke on her dinner… but it never happened because you called her in time and after wards she was obviously going to be careful about her mastication.

    I had a similar experience two months ago… My wife and son were just going to the park about 5 minutes from our home. They left at 11am. Said they’d be back by 12pm for lunch. Even before 12pm hit, I had this very uneasy feeling something was wrong.

    When 12pm came, I was almost finished making lunch and felt very uneasy. My whole being was saying, “You gotta go find them now.”

    My mind was saying, “Just give it some time. Wait ten minutes. Finish making lunch. Nicole’s probably talking to another parent or something. You don’t have time to be running out the door every time they are five minutes late.” She’s often 15-20 minutes late.

    By 12:10pm the feeling inside was impossible to ignore. I put on my winter boots and was out the door without a jacket.

    I found Nicole semi conscious with our 3 year old son in the snow about halfway back from the park.

    She’s diabetic, on insulin, and for whatever reason the insulin was working awfully well that morning. It had dropped her blood sugar almost to nothing. Somehow I carried her and Jonah back home screaming and crying, in the snow. I had to take turns. Jonah was scared and refused to walk. So I’d carry one so far, then go back for the other.

    If Nicole didn’t get sugar into her or she’d go into a coma and probably die. I had no idea how long she’d been like that or how much time I had. At the same time, I couldn’t leave my son out there alone. It was winter and nobody was around.

    I’m used to dealing with insulin reactions. But it’s rare that she’ll drop that fast (less than hour). Anyway, got some juice into her and back to the land of the living.

    I wish I had listened to my gut much, much earlier.

    I also wish I foresaw this and had brought some juice with me.

    Anyways, we are wiser now. Every bag, jacket, coat, etc., is laden with juice boxes.

    Sorry for the long comment.

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Wow, that’s incredible, John. I am so glad you followed your guidance and found Nicole in time. And like you mentioned, perhaps this was a good thing because if it hadn’t happened, you would not be so well prepared with juice boxes now. And that preparation may prove to be life-saving.

    Best of luck to you and your family, my friend!

  5. Kim Wencl Says:

    I’ve also had irrational fears just like that Phil … and I’ve always noticed these irrational thoughts always come to me during the night and they seem so strong … when I wake up in the morning I can see so clearly how irrational they were. I remember a couple of years ago when my daughter Anna was in college in Mankato. She had casually mentioned that her stove wasn’t working properly. I remember being jolted out of a deep sleep around 11 pm just certain that she was in danger from fumes from her stove. I called her and called her and there was no answer. I did this for over an hour and I was just about ready to jump in the car and drive to her apartment to check on her when she called me back – irritated – she was completely fine – she had been at the library the entire time with her phone on mute and her stove had been fixed the previous day. Oh Mom, I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself she told me and I knew she was right. But until you have a child you don’t really understand how vivid these irrational thoughts can be!

  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    An excellent example, Kim. When those thoughts hit, and they can at any moment, they completely consume us and grow stronger by the minute. And we can’t rest until our fears have been allayed. No fun!

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