The World is Scary

Snuggling my sleeping child

JUNE 1, 2020

Back in September, I got an idea for a blog post I was planning to write “at some point.” I sketched out a vague concept and created a draft of a post. I titled it “The World is Scary.” I think, in light of current events, that maybe it’s time to put my thoughts out there. Right now, it’s absolutely terrifying and it seems to just keep getting worse.

The night I decided to write a post about the world being scary, I was sitting on the floor of my daughter’s room. She had already fallen asleep and I simply sat there in the dark, watching her breathe peacefully. I cried as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t wake her. To be honest, I don’t entirely remember which particular news story that particular day had me so concerned about what kind of world she would inherit, but I knew that I wasn’t the first parent to shed silent and anxious tears in the glow of their child’s nightlight. I also knew that I would do it again.

Of course, no one could have predicted all of the chaos we’re facing now. Six months after I decided to write about how scared I was, everything absolutely exploded. Halfway through March, both my workplace and my daughter’s school shut down. Suddenly, my only daily responsibility was making sure her education continued at home.

Relearning How to Learn

Homeschooling is scary, but we're managing.

In all honesty, I was glad to take on her homeschooling. It gave me a really good distraction. I didn’t want to think about the whole world. For me, it was actually preferable to sit there charting schedules of Zoom calls and firing emails back and forth with her team of educators. I got a lot of praise for taking such an active role, but the truth is that it was a defense mechanism. Every repetition of the alphabet was another minute I didn’t think about the scary stuff. I could ignore the rising death toll, the economy, disturbing social dynamics, and everything else. I could let it just be me, my kid, and some letters.

I’ll admit that I also went pretty hard on the “why not” parenting. I know I was already prone to this. I’ve already written a post about putting a fish tank in her bedroom. Pajamas all day? Sure. Ice cream for breakfast? Just have some blueberries too. My yoga trapeze hangs in her room, set low to the floor so that she can use it as a swing. Seriously – my child has an indoor swing in her bedroom. Because why the heck not? Who does it hurt? She loves it. She’ll actually sit in it for a lot of her Zoom classes. It keeps some of her restlessness in check so she can actually focus on the content she’s meant to be interacting with, instead of putting all her attention on staying still.

Riley has more confidence when sitting in the swing.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Most people didn’t have the ability to practice the kind of escapism that I got to with my daughter. I’m extremely grateful for that. Unfortunately, even I can’t avoid reality forever. There was no way for me to know when the workings of the world would resume, but I knew I didn’t want to be taken by surprise when the time came. I carved out what time I could to participate in a few online courses. Again, this is somewhere that I was very privileged because I was able to find that time and also the money to pay for the courses I really wanted.

The Scary Truth

Eventually I started to notice the pattern. I kept being lucky – so much luckier than so many others – and I still didn’t feel safe or secure. If I was so terrified, what about those who had fewer options? How did they feel?

I’m trying now. I’m trying to do what I can with the privilege I have, but it doesn’t feel like I actually have any power. My privilege is a shield, but it’s not a great weapon. Or at least, I don’t know how to use it like one. When I was younger, I was convinced that when the world hit a breaking point like this, I would put myself on the front lines of change. I’m not. I’m at home reciting the alphabet and taking psych courses.

Feeling Small

Truth be told, a big part of that is because I just feel so damn inadequate. I am. I grew up with fantasies of being this hero champion that would do things differently and better. That is not my place. My place is turning out to be far less glamorous – to contribute what I can to those who know better while taking care of my kid. I educate myself, amplify the voices of experience, and I donate what I can.

Meditation can help us carry the knowledge of the world's scary truths.

It kind of feels like playing a healer class in a video game, and a weak one at that. To be honest, that’s not a character type that I gravitate toward, but it’s all I’m capable of being right now, and the sooner I accept my role, the better I can perform it. Whatever change I may wish to encourage in the world, my responsibility is to protect and nurture my child, but I would be doing her and her future a disservice by ignoring the outside world. Whatever is out there will become hers one day – its blessings and burdens alike.

One day, should she have a child of her own, she may find herself sitting on the floor in the dark and crying. I don’t want her to ever have to feel that fear, but she might. If she does, I want her to know that whatever scary things are out there, she won’t have to stand against them on her own.