Don't Go There, Paula


With worry and anxiety, repeatedly cultivate the following thought. If the problem can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. And if there is no solution, there is no point in being worried because nothing can be done about it anyway.” Dalai Lama

Yesterday I thought about dressing up for Halloween in a Wonder Woman costume that my brother-in-law sent me. I saw myself jumping around performing random acts of super hero kindness like holding doors for folks, making sure there was toilet paper in public bathrooms across Tampa Bay and helping people find parking spaces.

This made me chuckle along with a not-so-benevolent thought where I drop a bag of prunes at the doorstep of the person living below us who leaves threatening typed letters on our door with lots of capital letters and explanation points about our family's noise level being UNBEARABLE!!! I am thinking he must be constipated.

These thoughts got me thinking about thinking. One of the truths I have previously denied, but have come to admit more recently, is that I feel a lot of anxiety. And anxiety comes from scary thoughts about the future. What if something awful happens to someone I love? What if I contract a flesh - eating bacteria?

We have a beloved expression in our family that is over-used but still wonderful. It is "Don’t Go There Paula." When on the phone with my brother this phrase is said, on average, no less than three times. If I start to worry about something that hasn’t happened and most likely will not, I am usually reminded to stop going there.

The origin of this phrase is my sweet mother. Once she recounted to my siblings and I a time when she told her friend (Paula) to not “go there” (i.e. to a bad place about a potential catastrophe that fortunately didn't end up happening.)

Anxious thoughts can be dealt with a matter of ways such as combating a negative thought with an opposing more positive one, taking deep breaths, and pausing to notice all we have to be grateful for. However, there is another useful tool I like to utilize.

Instead of running from the scary thought, the trick is to actually go there. And the treat is that this technique often sets us free from the the chains shackled to us by resisting the scary thought in the first place.

I tried this when I was pregnant with my daughter and desperately wanted to avoid another c-section. I yearned to attempt a natural and less medical delivery. When I shared this wish, the majority of the doctors and nurses I spoke to were not in favor of this decision. In fact, they looked at me as if I was spewing verses from the underworld at them.

I was incredibly frightened, but a deep - seated and intuitive feeling told me this was the way to go. But, I was scared, and so I had to learn how to sit with the fear. I pondered the worst - case scenarios during moments of silence and meditation. I wrote my fears out on paper, and sometimes cried trying to release all the tension and tightness out of my tear ducts and lungs.

The most important realization came when I actually felt what I had heard others say and that is…WE ARE NOT OUR THOUGHTS!

While we most certainly are not our thoughts, and we know that what we resist persists, sometimes perhaps it is helpful to just stop resisting and allow ourselves to indeed go there…to walk into the dark hallway and acknowledge the ghosts and goblins lurking in the corners. While I am not advocating spending all of our waking hours obsessing over what scares us most, I am suggesting maybe sometimes thinking the thought we are scared to think.

And then we can put on our super hero costumes and greet those ghosties with a big bad "BOO" because sometimes it is okay to go there, Paula.