Sometimes the simplest things can take you back in time. Today I saw a sign advertising McDonald’s ice cream cones.
I was instantly back in the drive thru with Cameron getting our 576th cone.
It was back in a time when my metabolism didn’t hate me and when getting ice cream with my kids was all I could muster in the form of being the fun mom.
I asked him if he remembered all the times we would get cones in the drive thru.
“Do you remember, Cameron?”
A slight grin started to crawl across his face. ” Of course I do”, he said, as the grin became a full smile.
“Do you think we were eating our feelings back then?”
There was a long pause and I braced myself for his deep, emotional, and heart-felt response.
“No, I think I just liked ice cream”, he flatly replied.
Laughter. It has always gotten us through.
I recovered from the laugh and muttered,”Well I sure as hell was. So I guess it was a win- win!”
“Want to go one last time before you go back to school?” “I may have some more feelings to eat.”
But this time they are happy feelings.
This time I am not feeling a giant knot in my stomach as I send him and his brother off to college. This time I have not vacuumed my bedroom floor in anticipation of being in the fetal position once they are gone. This time I have not cried secret tears when they weren’t looking.
Nope, this time I am excited. (and not just because I get my clean house back)
You see, now I know it’s where they are thriving. Now I know it’s exactly where they should be. (Now I know they will actually wash their sheets more than once a semester ) And now my fears – of will they succeed – are behind me. My worry for their safety and happiness has diminished. (Of course, all parents know that worry will never completely go away) This time I am not feeling a huge loss. This time I have a grateful heart that they have found their place; and I can’t wait for them to get back to it.
Although I feel happy and thankful, I can’t help but wait for the next crisis; the next hurdle to overcome. I can never seem to stay in the happy moments. Maybe you experience it too.
Brené Brown writes about a condition called Foreboding Joy – and I am it’s poster child
“…I’d argue that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to really feel…In a culture of deep scarcity—of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough—joy can feel like a setup…We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
After all the bad my boys and I have experienced, I find it hard to enjoy the good. I am always waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
According to Brené this is what Foreboding Joy looks like:
“Works going great. My relationship with my partner is good. My kids are healthy and happy. Holy crap! Something bad is going to happen.”
And that is exactly what it is like for me.
I rarely allow myself to feel joy because I have to brace myself for the next hard thing that is going to happen.
Most of us have experienced foreboding joy, but those that have experienced loss or trauma,or serious illness are exceptionally vulnerable to it. Brené Brown gives this example of foreboding joy:
“Have you ever been staring at your precious child while they sleep and thought, I couldn’t love this child anymore.”? You feel such joy! Then in the next moment you fear the worst. You think, “What would I do if something happened to them?” That happy moment of love and peace evaporates in an instant.
When you have experienced the worst, you are always bracing yourself for what is coming next. You can’t help but think, “It came for me once, it is surly coming for me again.” It takes practice and hard work to allow yourself to stay in the joy and the happy.
This time, as my boys go off for their senior year of college, I may actually be allowing myself to feel grateful and joyful a little longer than I usually do.
I am doing my best to not let the foreboding joy rob me of my moment of happiness and peace.
But don’t be surprised if you see me today in the drive thru of McDonald’s with an Ice cream cone, or two, in my hand.
Look, I am trying. Baby steps. Baby steps.