To Fret or Not to Fret

Recently, while staying with my mother, I came across some writing by my grandmother, written when I was a child in the 60s, fretting about how her grandchildren would most probably die in war or of starvation and how much she worried for us all as the world seemed to offer nothing but danger.   I had not realised until then what a worrier she was.

One of my strongest memories of my mother was her overriding anxiety and fear for our safety every day – and yet how powerless she was to stop my brother and I from climbing the tallest trees and walking in the long grass barefoot (FULL of vipers!) or hurtling down rough roads on our bikes… the trips to hospital were a regular occurrence.

The other day I was helping out with my grandson who was unwell. It seemed like he was sick so much of the time with one thing or another. I saw how stricken my daughter was with worry, and how I worried, and how – in that moment – we were both seeing him as weak and not supported by life.  Dependent on a protection neither of us knew how to give him.

I realised that this has been passed down through the generations: this tendency to worry and to view our children as incapable, weak or not supported by life: and any capacity they have seen with amazement.   

I remembered my little girl Ruthie aged 6 running after me, her face in so much pain, BEGGING me not to worry about her.  I asked her, Do you feel it when I worry about you?  And her saying Yes, and I hate it!

I started to link all of this up.  How much I have worried about people all my life, just as my mother and grandmother did, and how I somehow felt it was my responsibility to protect them from pain.  And how I was not capable of doing that, because it was not actually my job!  And how, in that attempt to protect, I was not seeing them in their capacity and their strength, and somehow supported them to doubt their capacity – and perhaps even create a weakened dependency on my support.

This served to mask the underlying sense of my own lack of capacity, fostered by my mother and grandmothers’ worry for me, and deep conviction that I didn’t have what it took to thrive in my life. 

I saw how my grandson was in danger of growing up viewing himself as weak, in the reflection offered to him from us.  And I saw and how disempowering that is. 

I hate it when you worry about me.”

Years ago, I saw a wonderful documentary about the animal communicator Anna Breytenbach (I strongly recommend seeing or listening to her if you haven’t already).  What struck me was her saying – when you see an animal in captivity or who is being mistreated… what they need is your love and appreciation, not your pity.  This may be obvious, but it got me noticing how much I was crumpling with pity whenever I would see suffering animals – and how utterly unhelpful that was, both for myself and for them.

I see that to worry and fret about another is similar to having pity; it does not replenish, encourage, or imbue with the redemptive power of love, it diminishes.  It creates an imbalance and a separation.

So when I think of my mother, who is deep in another depression, or my grandchildren when they are not well – or what their future might be; or when I think of those who are ravaged by war or flooding, or those who are being abused, or the animals who are going extinct, I am called.  To drop the worry and the pity.  To breathe it all into my heart and keep breathing out love.  And with that an awareness that each of us has what it takes to meet the realities of our lives even when it doesn’t seem so.  I have needed to meet the parts of myself which are convinced they need rescuing, and those which think they must rescue others.  Meet their distress and anguish, and bring them home. Feel the pain of life without resistance.

This means keeping on coming back to an abiding presence which can and does meet each beleaguered worried part, which can and does reside in the heart and body – which responds creatively rather than acting from old – generations old – habit.

This little comment, I read in a novel today and it inspired me: “At my age you either fret all the time or not at all.  I have chosen the latter.”  I thought, yes, I will go with that.  And I will publish this because I feel like it, without fretting about whether it is good enough for anyone else!

Author: fannybehrens1

See more about me by visiting my website

4 thoughts on “To Fret or Not to Fret”

  1. Thank you Fanny again!
    I love that you have written this and shared these stories and memories, and the sense of how it is to over worry and how it is to receive that worry from a parent or grandparent, how these patterns repeat and repeat until we realise and can really meet them. I really love that you wrote it because I needed to hear this too and realise more fully the impact on myself and my family of deep worry patterns that I have accepted for too long and tried to stem but have not yet managed. This gives me the encouragement I needed to see these patterns of worry more clearly and meet them more fully as they need it.
    Thank you!! ❤️❤️❤️😊


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