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The Bridge That Wasn't There
I went backpacking in the Patagonia region of Chile with my best friend the year after we graduated from college. On one of the later days of the seven day trip we crossed a bridge that was basically two big wet logs tied together. You held onto a string that was tied to a tree on each bank to steady yourself as you crossed. For some reason, it terrified me. I think I was scared of falling and having some freak accident where I hit my head on a rock. That is about as developed as my fear was. Then I crossed the bridge and everything was fine.
Six years later, my husband and I went on the same backpacking trip for our honeymoon. It sounds absurd, but as we planned for the trip, as we got closer to the start of the hike, and then each day of the hike, I would have these prolonged moments of worrying about the bridge. I was less worrying about myself falling, but worrying about him falling, hitting his head, and horrible consequences. I would start thinking about ways to cross the river without going over that bridge. Or ways to do it so there was no chance of falling. I never came up with a perfect solution. It always scared me. It sounds even more ridiculous to me now as I describe it, but I know this is how i felt. I can conjure up the feeling even now.
As we neared the final campsite, I realized that we had never had to go over the bridge, and I knew there were no more rivers ahead. I couldn't figure out what had happened to it. Perhaps it was now the very small trickle of a river we had 'crossed' by walking from stone to stone. Perhaps it had been replaced by one of the more stable bridges I had crossed without even a pause, updated in the last six years. Regardless, I had spent so much time worrying and feeling afraid - about a bridge that wasn't even there.
I realized I do this about many things far less tangible than a slippery bridge. Being a mother has helped me realize how little I control, and how quickly things change. I realized that I tend to invent problems or things I am scared of facing, worry about them - mostly trying to figure out how to avoid them or get around them - and then it turns out they do not exist. Or it turns out they do exist, but they are not actually as scary as I imagined. My experience with child birth is a perfect example. I prepared and prepared, and felt confident about almost everything going into it, but I was terrified of the pushing. As it turned out, that was a bridge that wasn't even there - I never had to push because I ended up getting a c-section after two days of labor. I was also terrified of getting a c-section, but hadn't thought too much about it because I was positive I wasn't going to have one. It turned out to be a positive experience and I and my son were perfectly healthy and so lucky. That bridge turned out not to be as dangerous and scary as I expected.
Going forward, I think I'm finally learning not to waste my time worrying about problems that may not even exist. And if they do exist, learning to look forward to embracing the challenge, not wasting my time trying to figure out a way around them. As a mother, I realize now that my son is watching everything I do. I can tell him not to waste time worrying about imaginary bridges, but I think the true way to pass that on to him will be to show him in my daily life.