Let me start by saying this is not a humblebrag. I am well aware that it could read as the words of a privileged whiner but in fact it’s quite the opposite. I’m afraid to even write this down (what if listing it all might jinx me?), but here goes: Life is good right now. I have a great husband. We are financially stable with a wonderful home. We were told we might never have children due to my medical history, but got ridiculously lucky and conceived naturally. We welcomed our first child just over a year after we got married. After years of suffering on and off from debilitating lupus symptoms, I am not in a flare-up right now, and it feels great to be healthy. Of course, we face money stress and work anxiety on a day-to-day basis, and we fight just like any other couple. But, big picture, like I said, life is good right now. And it terrifies me.
There have been a few other times in life when I felt so fulfilled it was scary — after landing my first big magazine job and again when planning my dream wedding, I felt it. But sometimes now that I’m a mum of a beautiful little girl, I feel a permeating sense of anxiety/guilt over having gotten “what I wanted” out of life. Why me? How is it possible that I’m living this uncomplicated (for now) existence?
At night, I tuck our daughter in and then hang out with my hubby until he crashes. Then, I lie awake staring at the ceiling and thinking about things that could possibly go wrong. What if our daughter were to get ill? She is our entire world and I need her to be healthy and fulfilled. What if we don’t have such an easy time getting pregnant with number two? Aside from the obvious devastation, those types of struggles could really wear on a marriage. Speaking of marriage, nearly half of my friends who got married around the same time we did, are divorced or headed in that direction. What the heck? It seems like only a matter of time before one of us will mess it up royally and our relationship will suffer the same fate.
Some days, all of a sudden, a storm cloud forms above my head, making me wonder if I really “deserve” all of this. Yes, I’ve discussed it at length with a therapist. I have perspective on what makes me feel this way. What I’ve learned is that this is my anxiety talking, and when the feeling hits, I carefully pep-talk myself out of it. Yoga helps. Closing my eyes and breathing helps. Long walks help. Sharing with my husband helps to a point — he probably thinks I’m nuts when I say these things, but he’ll usually throw me a sympathetic nod, at least!
Despite the mental work I’m doing to overcome the perpetual feeling of “waiting for the other shoe to drop,” some days are harder than others. It’s upsetting to live in a world where so much devastation, illness, war, and tragedy tear families apart. To read about these things and then to look across the living room floor and see your own intact. I didn’t do anything differently or better than anyone else. No one (or rather, everyone) “deserves” the sweet life.
Instead, I have to breathe through the feeling and channel the energy into helping other people. Sometimes that’s donating to children’s charities or sending what money I can to a cause close to my heart. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up the phone and listening to a friend who’s having a hard time. And even at her young age, it’s often explaining to my daughter the concept of gratitude, grace, and giving back.
None of us is perfect — there’s no perfect life, either. I live with a chronic illness (currently well-managed on meds and a healthy lifestyle) and have faced fear and plenty of pain in the past. My heart has been broken and surely at some point, our family will indeed go through hard times. But right now I have it pretty good, and I guess I just wish I could spread it around a little more. Even more so, I wish I could enjoy and embrace the happy while it’s here, because life is just too short. And nothing stays easy forever.
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