Off the Mat: Fear Itself

Fear Itself

He’s hit 54 inches, or close enough for Six Flags safety standards. With his extra effort to stand tall – viola! – he’s cleared to ride Superman. As the train climbs and climbs that first hill, I gaze down at the beautiful, absolutely unobstructed view of the river 200 feet far below.

My stomach clenches. Hands clamp. Breath catches. Until I reminded myself – this is supposed to be fun. We pay for this fear! I exhale and enjoy the ride.

Dad turns eighty this summer and the clan plans to gather. We’ve arranged for my kiddo to stay a few days longer. Weighing travel options for his return trip, we’ve elected a solo plane flight rather than another twelve hour drive.

I research logistics. Permissions. Best airlines for children traveling alone. Stop myself from going too deep down through horror story one star reviews – just enough to reassure myself that they all involved connecting flights.

Cleared with all of the grownups involved, I present the option to him.

No. I don’t want to.


No. Wait. Well….

And then the questions begin. We cover who, what, where and when from practicalities of supervision thorough security to the critical details of snacks and screen time. His fear begins to turn to excitement and pride at the possibility of being big enough to travel alone. His no turns to yes.

And then the inevitable question comes – what if the plane crashes?

In my head, my answers flow like this: I would never forgive myself for not being at your side. You’re probably safer on that plane than at school every day. You’re a well off white boy – you’ll have no problems.

But I don’t voice those fears. Instead, I say,

It won’t. Plane crashes are really rare. This is a safe way to go.

That’s just wrong, Mama. This Minecraft book says if your house is surrounded by monsters, Minecraft will show a message “you cannot go to bed; monsters are nearby.” Why would they do that?!? If there are monsters, you want to be in your bed. It’s the safest place!

I affirm this truth, turning slightly so he won’t see my amusement. I’m grateful that his bed is his refuge. Monsters don’t disturb him there, like too many children experience. My mind flashes to children bedded down in cages in border detention centers. Do those government issue blankets provide magical assurance?

Mental monsters infiltrate my sleep all too often. Lately they come in the form of worries for those children now in news headlines. For those in my son’s class, already separated indefinitely from deported parents. For families straining to stay together through the protective magic of Sanctuary: the twin preschoolers who race through the church hall with my son after Sunday school. Him having fun being the big kid to these little girls who just want their Mommy back home.

My fears for his safety are literally amusements compared to what other parents face. But the constant dose of stress hormones makes it hard to distinguish between real monsters and imagined ones. My brain feels hard wired to safeguard my child, as if my fear and stress could protect him.

Yoga philosophy describes our fears as the veils separating us from true happiness. I can use my practice to move beyond fear and fundamentally change my mental/emotional habits. Because relaxation is also hard wired into my system. It’s always there, below the surface tension, accessible through my breath.

I am more than my fear, aka the stress chemical reactions in my brain. As frightening as lack of control can be, I can surrender to the true uncertainty of every moment and live in the present rather than pick apart the past or worry about the future. I can act as best fits in the moment, without attachment to the outcome.

Call my senators – again – about border policy.

Let my child bike to the library by himself.

Ride Superman again with him. Maybe even try putting my hands up. After that first hill.


Ginny Hamilton

Pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki practitioner Ginny Hamilton teaches simple & proven techniques to release pain & restore energy in the workplace, group classes & private sessions. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice.

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