The other day after school, my son asked to play in the woods behind his elementary school. He ran ahead, while I stayed to chat for a few minutes with another mom. Then I went to find him.
He wasn't in the first place I looked, or the second, or the third.
I felt that little twinge of worry, that "What if...?" thought, accompanied by a lightning-quick series of mental images of all the ways things could go wrong and how horrible it would feel.
Then I took a deep breath, shook off the images, and ended up finding him close to the first place I'd looked, happily peeling bark off of a dead tree.
What's interesting, though, was noticing my inner commentary as I calmed myself down:
If you were a good parent, you would be worrying right now. You should be feeling guilty about not keeping better track of your child. What if something bad did happen and you were acting all nonchalant? Everyone would think you didn't care!
So I wasn't really worried about my son, but I was very worried about people judging me for not worrying about him. Weird.
What was that about? Since when was the amount of worrying I do about people a measure of how much I love them? Does loving people well require that I worry about them? I don't think so. And yet that hidden belief has been operating in the background for who knows how long.
I don't get the sense that the people who really love well -- the Dalai Lamas and Mother Teresas of the world -- go around worrying about people. Just the opposite. Their deep love seems to come with a sense of trust in people, and in life.
It's true for me, too. When I am worrying, I am shut off from actually experiencing love. And that doesn't serve anyone.
I think it's time for me to ditch that Worry = Love belief once and for all.
What about you? How do you relate the experience of worrying about people? Does it feel like love to you? How does it feel when other people worry about you?