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How Playing This Game in a Crowd Helped Me in Letting Go of My Anxiety

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Our city puts on a large firework show on July 3rd. My husband is a police officer in town and works during this event every year. He is the social butterfly of our relationship. If you know me even a little you know I struggle with large crowds and to be honest the past year of the pandemic has increased that anxiety significantly. Not only do I find large crowds to be a huge anxiety trigger for me, I especially dislike unorganized events. You know the ones where you must figure out where to go, where to park, where to sit etc…

The only way I can stick to making myself attend such events is to know that the kids are excited to attend. Even then sometimes my anxiety over what if can kick in. I am the person who becomes incredibly excited when events are cancelled. I am sure you’re probably thinking I live like a hermit. The truth is once I am at the event and all the “what ifs” are answered I have a fantastic time. I imagine this trigger pops up from a traumatic event which occurred in my childhood at a festival in our town. Don’t worry, I’m working on it.

On July 3rd I loaded up all the kiddos grabbed a drink for everyone and began driving around town. I wanted to find a location that we could truly enjoy the show without interacting in a large group. A place where the kids would feel happy and I did not have to feel drained… If you have children, you know none of those plans ever work.

Typically, I would just give in and go with what everyone around is doing. You know park near the large crowd and feel as though I must do what every other parent is doing. Instead I continued to drive until I found a parking spot that would normally make me incredibly uncomfortable, because I do not like to do anything that could potentially be against the law. Not because I am afraid of the consequences so much as the actual interaction with any human telling me what I have done wrong. The thought and fear of that make me completely ill…  Funny for someone married to a police officer, right?

As I pulled my vehicle next about 30 feet away from a yield sign in the middle of the grass, which was a perfect firework view spot, the kids became very excited. This location would be epic! It provided the perfect view and it was a beautiful evening.

Each kiddo chose where they were going to sit. The older boys sat in the back of the van facing the river where the firework show would begin. The girls claimed the top of the van outside of the sunroof, after all they are teen girls and have no issue being in the center of the show. Our youngest son loves his momma to say the least and although he was interested in sitting on the top of the van he didn’t want to be away from me either. This meant up until the show began he switched places frequently.

Once the fireworks began the kids were talking, laughing and of course trying the newest TikTok trends. In the past I would have worried about what people around us may be thinking, if we were being too loud, if we were blocking someone’s view (even though I always ensure this is not the case) and every other potential situation that may make those around us uncomfortable.

My youngest son is 9 and as we were sitting on the ground together he said Mommy, yell “Marco” and see if anyone around says “Polo.” My initial reaction was “No buddy, they won’t hear me. They will get upset. They probably won’t respond.” He again said “Come on Momma, it will be funny.”

I then realized that to ensure the comfort of those around us, I was not being authentic to who I am as a mom. I want the kids to laugh and play. I want them to use their imaginations to bring joy to others. I want them to be the joyous humans they were created to be without worrying their joy may bring discomfort to others. I want them to live outside of the box I have tried to fit into for so long. I was not being an example of the life I hope they will experience. Instead I was creating sadness in my child while trying to people please.

So I looked at my son, gave him a big hug and said, “You’re right buddy.” Then I yelled louder than I have ever yelled in public “Marco” and people around us joined in. This continued with laughter and smiles from not only my children but the families around us. While none of us were close enough to even see each other’s faces our voice echoed in joy and happiness. As if we’d all been friends for a long time. Most of all in that moment the smiles from my 9-year-old and our girls was something I will never forget. I wish I would have recorded the first time I yelled “Marco” that night, but instead I cherished that moment. It did, however, happen one more time before we left to head home.

My sweet friend, just live in joy! Wake up and make the decision to stop limiting your happiness. Had I chosen quiet, the truth is no one would have been any happier, they would have never even known. Yet, my son and my heart would have felt sadness because I was not brave enough to experience that joy. I have had moments like this throughout my entire life. The stories however usually end in me choosing comfort over joy. Self-preservation and protection over the possibility that my joy would make someone else unhappy.

Through my healing journey I have come to the realization that joy only occurs in the times we allow ourselves to be brave enough for an experience that may have previously caused us sadness. Joy is when we live beyond our control and allow life to happen to us instead of around us. After any trauma, grief or pain it is natural to want to protect yourself from feeling those feelings again. I truly believe this is why loving someone unconditionally is difficult for so many people. The unconditional part leaves you open for loss of control. It leaves open the possibility that someone else is going to do to you what another person did. The biggest problem with this, is our lives then become a tribute to the pain rather than a tribute to what you have overcome! Yell “Marco” at the top of your lungs and wait for those who respond with “Polo” and a lot of laughing.

Photo by contributor

Originally published: July 12, 2021
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