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Denna Ochs: A Former Athlete’s Mother's Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

Still, today! I see you. I hear you. My heart feels you. You and I have been navigating these roads together for six years, and I vividly remember the night you showed up, stepping right out of the dark into our lane. Out of nowhere, dimming my light, distorting my vision like a heavy fog. And I slammed on the brakes, not quite sure what you were. You were hauntingly hovering, all over the road, threatening to block our way. You crossed into my lane, trying to hijack my daughter, slowly suffocating her dreams in the process. Taunting me. And sneakily, you carjacked a piece of my inner peace that day. Her’s too. Forever, chained to your heavy load.

But I did manage to swerve. That’s what a mama does. Protects. Seeks a solution to lighten the load, or to off load it altogether. And, I looked for an exit. An easy escape from your impending danger. Any way out. Eyes focused forward, I stomped on the gas in pursuit of our future destination, hoping to leave you in the wind. Yet, looking back, in the rearview mirror, I caught you lurking, always…just a small step behind us. For two years, we quietly tried avoiding you. Finding our way, cautiously. Yet, never detouring from our desired destination. Just hoping you would go away. Someday.

You didn’t.

I sent her off to a life of college athletics anyway…navigating alone, states away. Me, a call away, always checking your location in proximity to hers. Excited for her new road. New scenery. Away from your origin. Rerouted and thriving; she was. Absolutely! She entered the race and eagerly edged her way onto the fast track again. Until, that moment when the world locked us all down, driving her back home. Stalled, but safely tucked away from your danger zone, yet again in my full sight. Temporarily.

Once the road race of life cranked its engine again, I watched her, mask up, put the pedal to the metal. And like bumper cars, you pummeled into her this time, over and over and over. Deflating her will to go. It was like trips of torrential downpours, blurring our vision of what her future was supposed to be. There she was, tight knuckled steering, from one day to the next. Me too. Miles of moments where we questioned how much further she could go into what felt like a never ending tunnel. Warning lights flashing. Hitting walls, but never stopping. Engine sputtering. Yes, we knew it was time for a new route, but we stayed the course anyway. Loyalty to a lane of life, started so long ago. A drive of dedication and determination toward a dream.

Still, two more years of playing chicken, racing toward each other, and at the last minute, skirting a wreck with you. Chasing the open road. Winning and losing ground. Realizing we were still trapped by you. Stalked. Road raged. Our girl was under construction, making her way, as best she could. Me too. Searching for a safety zone. Yielding to the twists and turns of the journey thrust upon us. Never giving up our lane for the likes of you.

But why?

I’ve asked, over and over, why you chose our road. Our determined, dream-filled daughter. Why her? Why us? And I’ll never know why. But I have to put it in park with why. After fifteen years of chasing an open road of a dream, six years of dodging you. She reached the cross road. Graduated from this gradient. And she has the right away. The green light to go. To travel that different road now. To merge into a lane of life where it’s not as congested, where she can find more rest stops for her anxious heart.

No worries, Anxiety. She can try to bypass the reckless and rude likes of you, but you will always remain a passenger. We know. And we finally accept your backseat driving. We acknowledge your presence, as we sing our song of salvation to others along our way. And we thank you for forging her a path of purpose through the pain. May we heal hearts with hope along our highway. All because of you.


A Former Athlete’s Mom


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