The list of things which I cannot control seems endless at times. I cannot make the cat’s nose not cold, nor can I control his seemingly primal desire to greet me cold nose to bare skin. I cannot control the hormones that pulse through the bodies of my teenage children, nor my former husband’s… well, anything that would be handy for me to be able to control. I cannot expand the hours in a day, the days in a week, or the sunlight allowed by the rotation of the earth around the sun.
Beyond my vote–and the resources invested in campaigns–I cannot control who will be the next President of the United States. That one is particularly humbling on this day because… well, there’s a great deal at stake for me and my “homosexual agenda.”
At the market where I spend my days, I’m covered up with realities I cannot tame. When trucks arrive, how much is on them, which coworkers come when they are scheduled, and how efficiently they “throw” the goods when they come. For the first two months I worked there, I was unaffected by these things. I just went, clocked in, did my job (excellently, I might add), clocked out, and went home.
This week, I suddenly found myself quite agitated. After being out of my regular position for a couple of weeks to train and work in another department (to give a vacation to a really cool dude who hadn’t had one in four years), I came back to a mess in housewares and baby food. The shelves in my areas were out of whack and the backstock was more screwed up than what I cleaned up when I first got the job.
Now, as crises go, clearly, this isn’t one in the big picture. I’m not delusional enough to have forgotten that there are people on the east coast whose grocery store shelves are barren. There are mothers of wee babies who would (metaphorically) kill for haphazardly kept shelves of organic pureed fruits and veggies.
But for some reason, my happy-go-lucky-market-girl attitude was being threatened by feelings of frustration and resentment as I sorted and gathered untouched inventory to go make it all nice again. In my head, I sounded like some of the coworkers I cared not to emulate and also there was the quite annoying knowing that those feelings were completely optional.
I know that whatever it is that’s making me crazy… it doesn’t have to be this way. I say that (often) to clients, students, and those who read this blog.
I needed a reality check. This is the nature of the grocery store beast. Customers buy the stuff and trucks deliver more to replace it, so customers can buy it again. Employees from other departments can’t always find where stuff goes, so they set it down somewhere it doesn’t belong. Customers do the same when they change their minds after putting something in their cart. Everybody has their own responsibilities and when they are covering for you, it’s just unlikely they are going to know your job well enough to do it like you do it. And even if they try, it’s unlikely they will have the time because they have to do their job too.
This is “what is” in the grocery world. I could choose to feel all victimized by it or I could dig around in that crafty little skull of mine for a different way to feel about it.
Basically, railing against “what is” in any of these situations (and whatever equivalent situations you are facing) is quite simply a waste of precious resources (time, energy, sanity, joy, money, etc.). Certainly some things can be made less maddening. For example: Strategic hiring practices and cross-training make a difference at the market, or open communication and consistency works wonders with teenagers.
If I can’t fit everything into my day, I can either suffer or simplify. Since I can’t get the cat’s nose to warm, or get him to stop greeting me with it (as it is his very basic nature and I am, of course, unwilling to break his spirit), I had to find a way to shift my reaction to it and I have… I welcome his cold, wet love taps now.
By the way, it is amazing how easily we can shift our reactions to people and creatures once we are willing to recognize that the previously crazy-making actions are acts of love.
It can be difficult to release our need to control the uncontrollable but it is certainly possible. If you practice enough, it can become almost recreational to see how detached you can stay from the ups and down of life. Lately, life has gifted me with many, many opportunities to practice releasing my need to control. You’ve probably had spells like this throughout your life too.
You know the times I speak of, right? It’s the more intense times when you are (finally) fully committed to your new healthy life style. You start walking every day and juicing and you fill your kitchen with oodles of living foods, and then you get the flu. Or perhaps you start back to school and your mom gets sick. Or maybe everything is finally balancing out with the family and the new baby and you find a lump in your breast. Maybe you lose your job, or your partner, or your retirement account, or something else life-altering, just when you thought everything was finally getting the way you wanted it to be.
That’s the intensity that comes to support us in releasing our need for control. Those are the times when we become able to let go–when life is too big or too hard or too impossible to fix on our own–so we let the Universe/Divine Mother/God/Community in to be part of the solution.
These are the sacred times when we are broken down just enough to be healed. It is in these experiences that all of the junk washes away and we are left with the truth of who we are–powerful, connected, passionate, loving, vulnerable, human beings–and from there… everything becomes possible.
Two weeks ago, a fox stepped out of the darkness and in front of my car on a lovely, winding road near our house. I hit the brakes and lost control of the car. It left the road, went over the edge, and fell out of sight. While flying down the hill approximately four feet off the ground, the top of the car (from the front bumper up past the sun roof) met with a very strong but perfectly forgiving tree, and the car came to rest, tires down, 20 feet down the hillside. There were many more feet of darkness left below us.
It was by far both the most traumatic and beautiful experience of my life. Since then, the children and I have been huddled together, in the loving arms of our community, healing mentally and physically. The fox made it. We made it. And all that’s left to do is learn every single thing we can from this life-changing experience.
For today, I have this: I am decidedly not in control of the fact that my beloved Volkswagen Jetta is now a paperweight. I cannot control the financial implications of the accident, the fact that I’m still in and out of a fog, or the gentleness with which my body demands to be treated as I heal. But this experience was intense enough to force me to let go and allow myself to be supported.
One friend loaned me a short-term car, another offered me one I can drive for a month or two, or until a new car makes its way into my life. A former client created a fund. People have donated, and also prayed for our healing. My mom picked us up that night, stayed over when the children were not comfortable with anyone driving anywhere, and filled our fridge and pantry with yummies.
A circle of soul sisters created space for me to process the experience, even though it’s impossibly hard to hear stories about children screaming and mothers being unable to keep cars from hurling themselves into the darkness.
My beloved wife (who is rocking law school 900 miles away) has been my rock, strong and stead, since I sat in the darkness and sent her those very first text messages.
Sweet baby, where are you?
I need to tell you something.
All three of us are ok but I wrecked the car trying not to hit a fox.
We are totally fine and safe.
A man stopped to help. No one else was involved. I was not speeding or texting.
I don’t need you to do anything.
I just wanted you to know.
My accident and the mess at the market are, somehow, strangely intertwined. In fact, everything is now. As I stumble through the telling of these stories–the learning and healing I’ve received from this experience–I hope that you’ll find something you’ve been looking for… something that will free you to live and embrace the truth of who you were born to be.
(Yes, with me it always comes back to that with me.)