Although I’m not one to embrace the idea of “resolutions” for the New Year, I do like to spend some time pondering come January first. I think about what worked over the past year, and what didn’t. I wonder what I might do differently in the coming months to make me feel happier, healthier, more productive, more patient, more compassionate. Are there new habits I could embrace? Is a change in daily routine in order?
As I’ve been re-reading bits and pieces of Life in General, I’m so aware of constant themes that run through my life and appear in my writing practice. I spend a lot of energy bemoaning the passage of time, and feeling as if I’ve not been productive or accomplished enough because of it. How can I address that problem in 2015? I wonder.
The answer lies in another subject that comes up often: I expend inordinate amounts of time and energy trying to control things that really aren’t mine to control. Most of that time and energy is in service to worrying. “Why do you worry about things you can’t control?” my husband said to me the other day when I was (once again) obsessively wringing my hands about something. “Make a plan, stick to it, and stop worrying about it. Your worrying will not change the situation.”
Oh so easy to say for one who lives by the voice of reason and logic. (Note: But also one whose personalized license plate on his 2014 Dodge Charger reads “In Chrg”).
I think all my worrying and attempts to control life and it’s variety of situations circles back to the It’s Only Me syndrome. Whether it’s because my family is so small, or so scattered, or just because I was raised as the bright, shining center of everyone’s attention, I often feel very alone in the world, a feeling that lends itself to a pathological need to manage the outcome of everybody’s life. Not only to do it, but to fret and worry about it, too. After all, if I don’t do it, who will?
Who else can help Mom get her grocery shopping done, make sure she’s eating, take care of her doctor’s appointments and medications? And if Mom falls and ends up in assisted living, whose fault will it be? Somehow or other, it will feel like mine. Because It’s Only Me.
Who else can make sure the dog with the finicky appetite eats his meal in a timely fashion so the dog with the voracious appetite won’t steal it? And if the finicky dog gets an upset stomach and the voracious dog gets too fat to waddle up the stairs, whose fault will it be? Mine. It’s Only Me, after all.
Who else can coordinate paying all the bills on time, scheduling the online payments so they’re withdrawn at the appropriate times during the month, depositing the checks that come in, getting cash from the ATM for lunch money and groceries? And if a check bounces, we get a late fee on the mortgage, our credit rating plummets, and we don’t have any money for lunch, whose fault will it be?
Obviously, the need to control every little thing arises from fear. Fear of something bad happening if I don’t stay on top of the situations. Fear of screwing up.
But I also think it arises from some deeper sense of inadequacy, a need to prove to myself that I’m capable, that I can take care of things, that I’m In Control.
This year I hope to relinquish some of my need to control every aspect of life. I picture it like letting some of the air leak out of a balloon - not all of it at once so my life doesn’t completely deflate with an embarrassing gasp. But judiciously, so that the balloon isn’t rock hard with inner pressure, stretched so tightly its skin threatens to burst with a loud pop. Just so it feels a little more comfortable and squishy in there.
Early on in the year I also like to choose a word or words that embody positive things I hope to manifest within my life. Seems like this year might be a good time for words like “relax” or “calm,” reminders to ease up and trust that life will unfold without all of my complex machinations.
Because after all, who’s really in charge of the “laid back” and “chilled out” departments in my life?
That would be Me.