Tic Tac Toe
“I’m fine; leave me alone” he says as I find myself, yet again, prodding, nagging, trying to help
The words hit me
Not just in our own dance of push and pull
But also in that of another anxiety-ridden parent-child relationship, this one where I am the child
Was it only last week that I found my 44 year-old self saying these same words to my own mother
As she was expressing her concern about my own issue that I wanted to deny
And so it is, this game we play
Like that of tic tac toe which my child and I played when he was younger
I would look at the piece of paper, considering my next move
While his little eyes wide open, watching with anticipation what my next move would be, and how he would respond
And in the space of that moment, I hung onto hope that I would win, while he held the same
And so it is that I consider in this moment of ours now, as we are both flooded with worry, that we are both wanting to win, to hold onto some semblance of control
All my worries about what will happen to him if I don’t keep trying to seek help, to “make him better”
And his own worries, for, perhaps the same reasons that, I, too resist my own parent
For fear that letting down his guard would mean to acknowledge that there is, indeed, a problem to address, and all that comes with that holding that truth
We sit in this space for what feels like an eternity
Anticipating each other’s next move
And, in that moment, I pause
I see myself in my child’s eyes
In the reflection of those beautiful green eyes, that look just like mine
The pain, the fear, the worry
And I let go of my need to win this game
I put down my pen
I trust that, in doing so, I will create a space for both of our worries to just be
To let the full weight of our fears linger in the air, for longer than is comfortable, without rushing to my next move
After what feels like forever, I notice we are both breathing quieter and more slowly
And it is only then that I pick up my pen again and decide to purposefully put an “X” where I know an “O” belongs
To my amazement, in his turn, he chooses to do the same
This game is over; neither one of us has won, and at the same time, we have both won
For by sitting in the space of anxiety and loosening our grip of resistance to it, we can now strategize our next move far more clearly
Perhaps we are on the same team, after all, and our opponent is not one another, but it is anxiety
About the Author - Rebecca Feinberg
Always a writer at heart, I have found the process of writing to be instrumental in helping me to process my feelings and emotions.
Recently, as I have begun to be more confident in expressing my own voice and my own truth, I have found myself writing more and finally feeling brave enough to share my writings with others. As someone who craves connection through authenticity, my hope is that my writings resonate with others and may serve to connect us with one another, so we do not feel so alone in our individual challenges, especially surrounding mental health. In my experience, mental health issues are often "taboo" to discuss and lead to a sense of isolation and shame.
When I thought about where I might want to share my writings, ADAA seemed to be an ideal fit. Its core mission of focusing on improving quality of life for those with anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, and co-occurring disorders through education, practice, and research, aligns with my purpose of both writing and sharing. For I deeply believe that a large part of improving quality of life for those who live with (and who have loved ones who live with) mental illness is in providing people with a safe space to be seen, heard, and valued for who they are and for their experiences--to not stifle one's truth.
ADAA creates such a space by giving voice to what is often the "unspeakable" in our society and creating a culture of connection and acceptability. It is my hope that my writings, my voice, may serve to add to this mission.
When not writing, I spend my days working as a public health researcher at a large university, raising my 14 year old son as a single mom, and enjoying the beauty of Western Massachusetts, where my son and I live.