I’m amazed at how readily I believe old, fat lies. These are lies that I grew up with, the ones that stuck to me like glue as I was forming the framework of my psyche. They fed on stored up pain and generations of superstition and fear. They feel nearly impossible to shed, like that last 5 pounds I just can’t seem to work off. In this case, though, it feels more like 50 pounds, not 5. These old lies are heavy, strapped to my back and my belly, buckling my knees after a long walk up hill.
The one I recognize the most readily was actually spoken in my house growing up. It was the legacy of my grandmother: “If you worry about something then it won’t happen to you.” The message I heard in this was “If I don’t worry about something, that particular something will happen to me.”
Consider that for a moment. Consider the power of that statement. That this lie would hold as much sway in my life even now, after 43 years, is startling to me. I imagine this in my head as some kind of magic charm, some lucky penny that I believe I have to pick up and carry around to ward off the bad luck, bad “somethings.” As long as I pick up that worry charm and shake it purposefully at the “bad” something then it will run screaming from my path and all will be well.
I couldn’t even tell you if I thought this was effective. I must believe it is because otherwise why wouldn’t I have thrown out this lie before now? Sadly, it’s made me something of a pessimist and that’s led me solidly into the trap of the cynic. It’s a short jump to cynic from pessimist, I assure you, but it’s a tragic jump.
In my attempt to quit my cynicism I’m focused now on defusing this old lie, the one that tells me it’s good to worry, it’s beneficial to me, it’s what needs to happen. Even if it felt as though it has “worked” in warding off the bad somethings in the past, I realize now that it is still quackery. It just is. And it’s heavy. Far heavier than it looks sitting there so innocently in my backpack.
The trouble is that it’s so familiar. It’s more than familiar, it’s familial. How often have we all turned away from the direction we’re meant to go and rested uneasily in the arms of an old lie because it’s familiar? It’s a thorny place to choose but at least it’s my thorny place. I have this added layer of resistance to change I can name. The reasoning in my head is: “This is the way we’ve done it in our family…. this is our way.” And yet, I can look at my grandmother’s life and see that I’m certain this didn’t bear what she’d hoped. In the end only bitterness and fear were left in the wake of her worry. I don’t want to live like that. I don’t think I can live like that. Perhaps it is only now that I finally see this. I see spillage of my worry lie dripping into my children. I watch them reach instinctively already for that too available shiny penny. Seeing this is enough to force change in me, it’s enough to move me closer to that wild overgrown place I believe trust has been exiled. I cannot stay the same. There is far too much at stake.
So, I’m putting down the old fake magic charm or at least I’m going to do my level best. I know I’ll pick it back up. I know it will be a long process of quitting an old, bad relationship. I cannot do it alone. I know this.
When you see me in person and ask me how I’m doing I know that I’m probably going to say, “I’m worried about money….”
“I’m worried I’m screwing up my children….”
And then, because we’re friends you’re going to say to me, “Do you know how very loved you are?” And then I’m going to say, “No…I really don’t.”
And then you’re going to look me in the eye and I’m going to feel a little shy. You’re going to say, “Beloved, you are so well loved by the One who made you. You are so well loved that you can trust.”
At this point I hope I am going to choose to believe you. I hope I choose this because as I hear it come from your mouth, everything in me will recognize that this is truth and not lie. I think I’ll take that in then, like a deep breath of rich oxygen and sit there a minute, astounded at the lightening of my load.
I admit, I might root around for that penny when you walk away. I may scan the ground for it, hoping for a glimpse of it’s familiar, reassuring copper face. I may even find that penny and pick it up to take along with me on the road. But I trust that in that moment I will at least be able to remark on it’s weight and remember that I have recently had this one good breath of truth and remember that it was vital and real and light. I trust I’ll remember that feeling and the look in your eyes and maybe the next time it won’t be so hard walk past the lucky penny on the path.