“How puzzling all these changes are! I’m never sure what I’m going to be, from one minute to another”
Our Saturday mornings are hit and miss when it comes to excitement. Some weekends we are scurrying around trying to finish our Pokemon decks so that we can be barely on time for registration, and other days we are getting fueled up for a long day of Boy Scout activities either out in the woods or helping the community. But this morning was boring, slow and just plain normal; It is my most favorite types of days to spend with Caleb. We wake up gently in the morning and spend time working our eyes to fully open. On these days, we really just enjoy each other’s company, talk with one another, we begin to contemplate the bigger, more important questions in life. Most of the time I spend regaling Caleb of stupid stories of my childhood, he tends to enjoy hearing about all the goofy adventures I participated in. During our intellectual moments, we discuss topics that are of high interest so that we are both forever growing and learning. I have taught Caleb about the differences in Socialism and Capitalism, what is Cloud computing, why they changed the name to Istanbul from Constantinople (thank you TMBG), why the smart grid is a dumb idea, and why boys generally stink worse than girls. But this past Saturday morning was very different because he needed to ask me something important. I know that Caleb has been struggling to understand things in his life lately and there has been a haze surrounding him for a while now, but without any prodding from me, he asks the one question that plagues me and everyone else. Why does he worry so much about what is going to happen?
Wow! Deep breath. This one is tough because no matter how innocent this sounds, I have struggled with this problem. I have spent a great deal of time not only dealing with the effects of this fear but also understanding why it happens. I think worrying is a normal part of life, and shows that we actually care, however worrying can eventually become overwhelming. As the simple thoughts, lead to many bad emotional problems.
To be honest, both dreams of the ideal future and dreading the worst case scenarios, cause unneeded stresses. Especially for a 12-year-old. The lesson of knowing what you can control and what you can’t seems to elude so many people, that it won’t be an easy task. I have still not mastered this topic, but I have spent a great deal of time slaying my internal dragons of fear and doubt. The key is to not only talk about coping with the end effects of overthinking but to stop the downward spiral from ever occurring.
Caleb further explains his dilemma, his mind never stops. This sounds all too familiar.
As we climb into the truck on our way to our barbershop, I work through my head the best way to describe to him the problem that is existing. He needs to understand why he is going through these mental gymnastics so that maybe one day he finds his zen-like state of mindfulness. No matter how innocent the question, the answer was very complicated. Life is all about one’s perspective.
Caleb and I quickly went inside to reserve our spot in the lengthy line for our trims. By this point, Caleb had diverted his attention to catching all the Pokemon that happened to make their way inside. It hit me, the best and most simple example to explain this very difficult topic; I asked Caleb if he remembers Schrodinger’s cat. His brows raised, he said he remembers something about poisoning a cat, but wasn’t sure how that related to anything. He told me he was allergic to cats…
To Caleb, it was just a cat in the box, but to Schrodinger it was a way to explain the complex subject of quantum superposition. The simplistic explanation is that an object (in this case atom or photon) existed in multiple states and until an action occurred the outcome would remain unknown until observed. Thus the object could be two things at the same time until you saw what it turned in to. Schrodinger explained this theory, by stating that if you had put a cat in a box where there was poison on one side of the box. After you close the box, the poison was released, but would only spread to half the box. If the cat was on the side with the poison he would die, on the other side he would live. However, with the box being closed, you wouldn’t know which side the cat was on when the poison was released. Thus, until the box was opened and you look inside, the cat is both dead and alive. (To learn more details REF and video REF)
I told Caleb all of this above again, as he nodded understandingly. This wasn’t the first time he had heard it, and we had thoroughly gone through all the possible questions an intelligent kid would ask. But I had to take it to the next step, tying Caleb’s mental woes with this cat in the box. I showed Caleb that just like we don’t know what happened to the cat, we don’t know what the future is going to be like. That since we are only in control of ourselves, there is no way to fully know if the future will turn out good, bad or somewhere in the middle. So until that time arises, we will have to believe that we don’t know. It could be any of the states by then, and there is no way to tell. His brain right now is trying to work through and figure out how everything will turn out, and if left unchecked will bring him down. Because we aren’t in control, we will not be able to dictate the outcome. With this example, we don’t control the cat and don’t really know when we get to look inside the box.
The tough part was to explain that not only can we not dwell on the possibility of things turning out bad, but that we shouldn’t spend too much time dreaming and planning for the ideal future. Nothing ever really turns out exactly how we want it. This all goes back to not being in control of every aspect that will influence the outcome. We are only a small, but influential, part of the driving factors that will determine the results. If we become too emotionally invested in how things will turn out, we will tend to be continually let down.
The goal for Caleb and myself is to live in the moment. Enjoy living right now. It is okay to plan and work towards your ideal future but don’t become emotionally tied to it. Have goals, but be flexible with outcomes and timelines. I explained to Caleb, that he should focus his efforts on making himself ready for whatever may be in his path, and then pray to God to help with everything outside of his control. Then for Caleb to be ready to embrace the good things in life, and destroy the bad ones. The big thing though, is that the future isn’t written, and he shouldn’t spend so much time worrying about something that has not happened.
Worrying should lead to better planning and harder work to building yourself up, and not lead to anxiety and fear. We won’t know what God has in store for us, and the future isn’t written yet.
It was finally our turns, and we decided to take a detour before we went home; we needed fancy cupcakes for this evening. While we drove around the block, I asked Caleb if he understood what I was trying to explain about worrying. He agreed and told me that he didn’t know what was going to happen to him, but wanted to enjoy spending the day together. He said that he knew that the future hasn’t been determined, but he really wanted things to turn out the way he wanted. Don’t we all. I said the only thing that I knew to be true, I told Caleb that there is no way to promise how things will turn out all the time, but if you fight hard for what you believe in, fight for the right reasons, do the right thing and pray to God. Doing those things will give you a better shot than just sitting around worrying.
Caleb seemed to understand. I gave him a big hug and told him we are a team and I will be with him however he needs me. After letting go, he gave me this look, like he had something smart/funny to say. I was waiting for him to either ask me for a cat or tell me that he is still allergic to cats, but he didn’t say anything, just grinned. I think my son matured a little that moment. Just a little!