As a mom of eight kids, two of them teenaged boys, I could easily explain away stocking up during a pandemic when store shelves were chronically empty and the ability to shop increasingly unpredictable. If I was honest with myself though, FORO had taken hold in my life long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19. FORO isn’t just about worrying about avoiding toilet paper rationing.
The truth is, parents have been dealing with different mutations of FORO for the last several decades. At its core, I am referring to a scarcity mindset that haunts our wallets, our calendars and at the risk of sounding extreme, even our souls. We worry about running out of money, as tuition bills, mortgages and yes, grocery bills increase exponentially each year. Every night, we harp on the long list of items still left undone and bemoan the lack of time to do them. We hear ourselves snap, again, with impatience at the slow moving ten-year-old or the teen who’s left a trail of evidence of her presence from the front door, to the kitchen, to her room. We fear that we will run out of money, time and the virtues required to keep our family ship afloat and on course.
After my self-diagnosis and further self examination, I recognized three areas that I had been neglecting which I believe are the keys to effective management of FORO. I say management because like sunscreen, effective treatment requires regular application. This is not a one-dose vaccine.
The first area of my treatment plan is gratitude. I sat down and looked at my life. As I type on my computer with high-speed internet, a roof over my head and blessings too numerous to count, it’s hard to worry that my family won’t have what they need. When I take the time to thank God and the many other supports I have in my life, there’s a little less room in my heart for worry.
The second place I found I was neglecting was community. As busy as life was and not being able to physically see people, I realized that social isolation can make you feel like you are alone when the reality is far from that. Just picking up the phone or connecting with friends helped me remember that just as I wouldn’t dream of letting down my family or friends in need, they were also there for me. Whether it's encouragement and advice or borrowing a cup of sugar, connection takes the edge off.
The last step in addressing FORO is really the most critical: abandonment. In a world that celebrates independence and control as cardinal virtues, there is a lot of stress and pressure to have all of the answers. While it’s important to do our best with the skills and means at our disposal and to have goals we are working towards, sometimes we get a little too attached to the way we think our plan should go or what we think we need. In this year of St. Joseph, I recently learned of a devotion that is precisely the antidote. Follow the example in the image of the sleeping St. Joseph. When his life was thrown into a tailspin by the news of Mary’s pregnancy, he came up with the best solution he could and then fell asleep and let God come up with a better one.
So the next time you feel a little FORO creeping into your psyche, count your blessings, phone a friend and go to sleep.