To say life has been stressful lately is like saying
the Grand Canyon is a wee hole in the ground.
Last week humbled me in a way that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. By Friday afternoon, I was ready to quit life. Or at least go on another life sabbatical.
There were sick kids.
And then a (minorly) injured kid.
The horrible “who gets to go to work today” dance went on for nearly two weeks. For those of you that aren’t familiar, that do-si-do goes a little like this;
ME: Oh sh*t, the baby feels warm. Maybe it’s not really a fever and she will wake up okay… <insert denial here>
10pm – 2am
ME: What does your work schedule look like today, B?
B: I have meetings at 10, 2 and 4.
ME: I have meetings booked solid from 8 to 2.
<we play chicken with eye contact until finally….>
ONE OF US: I guess I could reschedule a couple of my meetings and take the morning
THE OTHER ONE: And I can be home in time for lunch and naps and then do the afternoon.
Now repeat that scene over and over again for two weeks straight.
Add to that an unexpected and expensive home repair and a couple of uphill parenting battles and you may understand why I was ready to pack it in and move to a convent.
But then I was reminded of a conversation I had with a beautiful friend years ago. We were talking about my tendency to try to control every outcome in stressful situations. She was making an observation about the futility of my attempt to stay on top of every little detail, which was making me crazy and overwhelmed and irritable. She told me I was hanging on to life with eagle-like talons.
Some part of me thinks that by digging in and clawing my way through every situation things turn out better. In truth, my control-freak nature just makes me wildly unfun to be around. Ironically, I also become unable to focus on any one thing because I’m constantly trying to juggle everything.
The answer, my wise friend told me, was to retract the talons and to turn my palms up. In other words, I need to let. go.
When I stop trying to control every little situation in my life, I am free to focus on the most important thing right now. Not only does that make me a more present mother, wife, friend, and professional, it also allows me to be sane. I don’t have to worry about the gazillion things I have to do later because I am only focusing on the one thing that is happening at this very moment. Then I move on to the next moment, and the next one, and…..well, you get the idea.
I spent all of last week forgetting this lesson until I was at my breaking point. I often have to get to myself into a horrible tizzy before I’m willing to remember what I already know.
And I do know that I’m not in charge. There are far greater forces at work in my life than my measly little brain or any to-do lists that come out of it. It’s scary to let go because OH MY GOD HOW WILL ANYTHING GET DONE. But here’s the kicker: things work out way better when my talons aren’t trying to hang on for dear life.
The last couple of days have been far less stressful, gratefully, and I’m enjoying a couple of calm days. I realize however that this, too, shall pass. I see a lot of changes coming down the pike for me; some big, some small. I know that I have a choice: I can make myself (and those around me) miserable by trying to control every outcome or I can go let go and just do the next right thing in front of me.
For me, the joy is in the letting go. Let’s hope I can just remember when the time comes to go palms up.
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