Have you ever heard of the phrase, "when in doubt, panic?" An awful piece of advice that I am ashamed to say I seem to live by. When my kids get up late for school, I panic. When my meat sauce starts to burn, I panic. When I send a question to my publisher and don't get a swift reply, I panic. When I'm forced to speak in Hebrew, I double panic.
I remember the first time I panicked. It was third grade and I had forgotten to have my parents sign a homework slip. The punishment was a visit to the principal's office. I remember how my hands grew sweaty and my back stiffened waiting for the teacher to discover my 'crime'. Luckily for me, there was a fire drill at that exact moment and I got away with turning in the slip the next day.
I used to think panic was an important survival instinct; a signal that danger was looming nearby when really all I was feeling was anxiety, plain and simple. I've discovered that anxiety is fear dressed up as logic in my mind. It tells me I'm being, safe, responsible, and cautious by panicking. The problem is, I'm not using logic, but fear to make some of my decisions.
Let's take fire for example. We were all taught as children to never play with fire. The dangers of fire are real and extremely harmful. Logic tells us to stay away from extreme heat and gases. As a mother, I tell my girls to be careful with matches and the stove. However, anxiety takes that and runs with it, telling me to stay away from anything that could cause a fire, like cooking, lighting the grill, using the drier, plugging in wires, lighting candles, and curious children who are drawn to the dangerous side of life. Anxiety says if we want to be safe, we need to get rid of or stop using these things. I will start with my children; just kidding, don't panic. I overcome the anxiety and will manage to keep my kids, along with the oven, drier, computer, etc.
This past week, however, my panic was in overdrive. There was unrest in Israel, the country I live in, as rockets were fired into the central and southern region. Sirens were going off, and bomb shelters were opened in various cities. My anxiety warned me to stay inside, forget about the shopping and taking the kids to their after-school activities. A siren could go off, and then what would I do? I knew what I would do, I would panic. Not a very useful reaction to have in such a moment.
Safety is important and negligence can cause serious harm. But panic is not a guide for living through difficult moments. It doesn't have my best interests at heart. Panic doesn't make any situation better, in fact, it pretty much makes everything worse. So here's to letting go of panic, or more realistically, hoping it lets go of me.