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  • Jan Rybeck

Solid Ground



We were not 100% sure…yet.

That is how we opened the family discussion about a potential move from Boston to DC.

Our kids spanned high school through 3rd grade. They were quite happy we they were, thank you very much. This was not going to be an easy chat. We explained that while we were not 100% sure about this move, we would let them know as soon as we knew more.

Amidst the crying, fretting, and other colorful forms of upset that ensued, our youngest daughter, age 9, looked up at us and asked… "so if you are not 100, then what number sure are you?"

You always know a great question when you have to reach just a bit for the answer.

We really could not say but in the considering, things became clearer to us. We weighed how much we did know for sure, the solid ground beneath our feet, that my husband had to get a job and that was most likely to happen in DC. We also, considered the chances that it was going to be this particular job at this particular time and we came up with a number that seemed about right- 82% we said.

Our daughter visibly relaxed and said, ok, I can live with that. Can you let me know when you get to 93?

And off she went to play.

Something about having a number, a way to gauge where things were provided her clarity to move through the fog and freak out of major upheaval. In her own ingenious way, she created solid footing for herself where we had momentarily shaken the ground beneath her feet.

Perhaps the antidote to anxiety is not calm or ease.

Perhaps it is clarity.

I am talking about the clarity that provides us with enough solid ground to know where to put our feet.

Isn’t that what under-standing means- the knowing and solidity under our feet that allows us to stand where we are and not fall into the muck of fear, confusion, and doubt?

From then on, we provided the kids as much clarity as we could, grounding it with facts and observation, and listening to their concerns and input so they knew they were understood. The numbers increased from 82 to 88, to 93, and eventually 98, when we had a more in depth conversation about where we were moving to, where they would go to school, and how we (I) would clear my schedule to be there as much as possible to make the move work for them. By this time, they had adjusted to the new reality and were beginning to find their own ways to adapt. They got on Facebook and connected with other kids in the new area, they found out about the sports and activities possible, and best of all, they learned that in Maryland school closed at the mere mention of snow… how cool was that?!

The move, like all major change, had its glitches and silver linings but overall, it was a fortuitous and fruitful shift in our lives. Yes, the ground did continue to change under our feet, after all, we were moving to DC during an election year and with one kid in high school, one in middle school, and one particularly wise girl in 3rd grade it was nothing but adapting to new phases, stages, and scenes.

We adjusted, found our footing, and continue to do so, by meeting anxiety with clarity. I don't for a second pretend that this was or is easy or smooth but by asking ourselves what is it that we know for sure that we can use to guide our footing, it does make it easier to step into the unknown.

What is the gap between where you are and where you want to or need to be? How clear can you get about what that gap requires?

What are signs of anxiety, concern, doubt? How might you meet that emotion with clarity or understanding?

Where might you turn for other perspectives or information that can ground your understanding of the situation?

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