Be Strong. Be Safe. Have Fun.

When I say Mojo is huge, I mean HUGE.


I’m standing at the sink minding my own business, head down, peeling carrots for dinner. I’m wearing a red, blue and gold rooster apron, a dollar store find that my mom picked up for me. I’m in Florida, on holiday with my husband while our two teenage daughters hold down the fort back in Ontario.

I am half-way through the tenth carrot when a mental picture stops me mid-peel: my younger daughter at tonight’s riding lesson, high atop her giant German warmblood, cantering down the long side of the arena. She turns her head toward the upcoming jump on the inside… but when she begins the approach, the corner’s too sharp, the jump comes up too fast, the horse trips and —


I don’t dare write down the rest. It’s too scary. I shake my head as if to rid myself physically of the thoughts. Cut! Rewind!

This happens too often, these scenes of unfolding calamity playing out in my mind. If I am to believe Brene Brown – and I do – I am not alone in this hell of my own making. Many of us, especially parents, engage in it. Forboding joy, Brown calls it. We can’t just accept that life is good, that all is well and will remain well. No, we rehearse disaster as a way of protecting ourselves against it, to ready ourselves. Not that we can do either of those things. It isn’t possible.

Brown explains how some folks – “wholehearted” people, as she calls them – catch themselves in these mental nightmares and seize the occasion to practice gratitude, to remind themselves of all they have to be thankful for in the here and now, instead of creating a terrifying future that will likely never happen.

I’m not good at gratitude. Not yet anway. But I have a few other mental tricks in my arsenal, and now’s the time to reach for them.

I push myself away from the counter, close my eyes and breathe in deeply. Inhale,  2, 3, 4. Exhale 2,3,4. I try this a few times but the scene in my mind plays on.

It’s just thoughts, Lisa, it’s just thoughts.

Yes, and they’re terrifying.

I switch gears for a few minutes, inhaling slowly and breathing out a long, sighing maaahhhhh…. No dice. I am still seeing falling horse.

I need something more visceral, more to the point. I look at my feet and consider, then walk into the living room where I can stand under the skylight. I lift my arms skyward, palms up, inhaling as I go and gazing up toward the sky. I bring my hands down in Namaste, a gesture of prayer, of seeing the light.

Be strong, I pray. Be Safe. Have fun. I say it out loud. Be strong. Be Safe. Have Fun. I focus. I breathe. I repeat, then turn the words inward. Be strong. I raise my arms, reaching, stretching, pulling the calming energy of the universe inward. Over and over again. Be strong. Be Safe. Have fun. Soon the scene falls away, my heart rate returns to normal and I can breathe more easily. Calm washes over my body, the agitation drains away. The scene in my mind is replaced with my daughter, smiling, riding her horse with confidence, energy, enthusiasm. A smile comes to me, too. I’m there with her, but I’m cheering not shrinking.

I return to the kitchen and my peeling. Be strong. I fill a pot with water and put it on the stove to boil. Be safe. I don’t drop my mantra, even when I drop the knife, narrowly missing my toe. I keep saying it. One must remain vigilant in times of danger, even when, maybe especially when, the danger comes from within. And isn’t that where it is most of the time, the real danger? Dare I say, all of the time?

It’s 8 pm now. I’ve had no emergency calls. I pick up my cell phone and send her a text.

“How was Mr. Mojo Pants tonight?”

Her reply flies right back from a thousand miles away.

“Great! We did a gymnastic and some short turn boxes with no standards! Much fun !!!!!”

Five exclamation marks followed by a smiley face. And to think how I made myself suffer! At least I and figured out my own rescue: Be Strong. Be Safe. Have Fun.

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