I am a big fan of control. As an event planner, I have to be in control of all of the details of my clients’ events. If I’m not, things will go wrong. The biggest part of my job is making sure that nothing goes wrong. Hence, I am a big fan of control.
As a mother, I have always been super organized. It probably has something to do with having three babies at once and having to keep track of a million things simultaneously. I always anticipated and prepared for what would come next, buying clothes for my kids at least one season in advance, making sure that their school books were purchased immediately after we received the book list for the coming year, registering early for summer camp, etc. I am a planner by nature, which makes being an event planner a pretty natural fit for me.
As you can well imagine, I am not a “let the chips fall where they may” type of person. I am more of the “arrange the chips in an organized manner” type of person. But I have learned that there are some chips that you can’t arrange, you can’t plan for, and you can’t organize. They fall where they may, they fall hard, and there isn’t a damn thing that you can do about it.
I have had to learn the hard way that there are things in life, really bad things, that are totally beyond my control, like my daughter’s eating disorder. I can follow a certain track, put my family on a certain path, and it can all derail at lightning speed. I can do everything right, but the outcome may not be what I anticipated or what I hoped for. And as much as that sucks, I have to find a way to come to terms with that.
I concluded years ago that I can only do my best, and that my best may not be good enough to produce a desired outcome, but that doesn’t absolve me from my responsibility to do my best anyway. I can’t control any outcomes, I can only control my own actions.
When my daughter developed an eating disorder, I spent every waking moment educating myself about her illness. The depth of my research rivals that of actual researchers. I made myself fully available to dedicate myself to making her well again. I gave up every semblance of a normal life to invest myself in my daughter’s recovery. Sadly, it didn’t go as planned. If love could cure eating disorders, my daughter would be fully recovered by now. But it’s a whole lot more complicated than that.
Ten years later, I am still fully invested in her recovery. Some may call it foolish, I call it being a mom. I am still relentlessly pursuing knowledge on eating disorders, because the more I know, the more valuable I am to my daughter and to other parents who need help. I need to be fully invested in her recovery, because anything less than that would compromise my ability to be the best mom that I can possibly be to her. My daughter deserves the best mom. I need the inner peace that comes from knowing that I am doing my best. It quiets the angst. There is so much angst.
One day, when my anxiety level was running high over things that I could not control, a treasured friend told me to find my Zen. Honestly, I had no idea what that meant. I am so not the Zen type, I am the type who makes fun of the Zen type. But because the recommendation came from a serious person, I took it seriously and I went off in search of my Zen.
I can’t say for sure that I found it, but I have come to realize that, as much as I am a hopeless cynic, I have somehow managed to develop a mindfulness for appreciating all of the blessings that I have and an ability to be in the present and to savor it. I seriously can’t believe that I used the words Zen and mindfulness in public, but I guess miracles happen. Just don’t expect me to start meditating anytime soon.
While I have more or less come to terms with the fact that my ability to control what happens to the people who I love is limited, some days, I am far less accepting of this limitation. I panic. I get really mad. I cry. I totally lose it. And that’s okay, I am entitled to lose it sometimes. Life has put me in some bad situations. I am not looking for pity, just stating a fact.
I know that control is mostly just an illusion, but still, I try not to let the chips fall if I can help it. I know that there are things in life that you can’t plan for, outcomes that you can’t influence, and events that you can’t control, no matter how hard you try. I know all of that and more. But even with that knowledge, I am still driven to do my absolute best, even when I know that it may not affect the outcome. I think it’s called being a parent.