For the majority of my life, I’ve lived under the illusion that I have control. Control of myself, others, situations, plans – life, in general. I kept everything in line by maintaining very well outlined to-do lists. If I put everything I needed to accomplish on the list then I felt a little more in control of my day.
I always worked ahead – my assignments in undergrad and grad school were always done at least a week in advance. If not, I freaked out and felt so behind. While classmates were in the library trying to find sources for a paper due tomorrow, I was trying not to gloat about my paper collecting dust because it had been completed days ago.
I like for my house to be neat and tidy. By keeping everything in its place I feel in control of my living space. Not being able to find something in my house drives me crazy. Even if it’s not in a logical location, as long as I put it away, I will remember where it is and find it later.
Organization helps me to feel like I’m in control. Whether it’s a filing system or multiple three-ring binders or baskets or bookshelves, keeping all of my things organized keeps my mind calm.
Planning ahead gave me a sense of control – when I finish this degree then I can get that job. If he proposes by this date, then we can get married by that date and should have a child by…you get the idea. I had my whole life planned out.
But, I’ve discovered that this is all an illusion. I don’t have control. Sure, I can control my attitude and my choices. Beyond that, though, there’s little that I have control over. I can’t control other people’s actions – how they respond to me, how they treat me, what they think about me. I can’t control the future. I work toward a goal, I can make plans, but in the end, I can’t control how it will all turn out. Obviously, I can’t control my body – I can’t make myself produce more eggs. I can’t create fertility out of my infertility.
For the first time in my life, I’m consciously living without control. I don’t have plans set into the future. I know we’re taking a trip in late March. I know I’m going on a mission trip in late June. Beyond that, I really don’t know what’s next. I used to have my calendar full all the time – planning way into the fall and winter (mostly because of work) and because of all that advance planning, I often lived in the future. I had a hard time being present because I was always thinking about the next thing.
For the most part, I only have energy to handle the plans of today. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what will happen tomorrow or next week because my energy level right now only allows for today. In this sense, grief does offer some gifts. Grief forces me to be in the moment because that’s all I can do. Grief doesn’t allow for future planning because right now the future doesn’t offer much to be excited about. Today, though – today has some opportunities that are immediate and exciting. Today is a gift I can count on. All those plans I was making for then and when, they were never a guarantee. None of it is.
I thought if I worked hard enough, organized well, planned ahead, kept my life neat and tidy then it would all go to plan. But, it doesn’t work that way. This could be depressing, but I’m finding it to be freeing. I can let go – I’m not in charge of managing everything. I can be free of the pressures I placed on myself – the pressures to have it all together. You may not see it, I may appear fine to you – but inside, inside I’m still aching and grieving. Inside I’m struggling to keep it all together. But, I don’t have to keep it all together. The world will keep turning if I let some things slide. Our house won’t fall apart if I don’t put everything away. The church won’t fail if I slow down and step back. My friends won’t abandon me if I retreat more often.
In the fall I planted all those bulbs. I had a plan. I plant them in the fall and they bloom in the spring. This is how it will go. However, the weather has been quite abnormal this winter. We’ve barely had a winter and the bulbs have noticed, so they’re starting to pop up. I want to tell them, “No! This isn’t how it works! You have to wait a few more months. Go back down!” I tried. They didn’t listen. I can’t control it. Some will die before they bloom. That’s just the way it will be this year. I have to let go and that is so hard for me to do. But, the flowers don’t seem worried. They’re just going with the flow, doing what they know to do, one day – one moment, even – at a time. They are always teaching me something…