Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Put the Play Dough Down

It rained on my run this morning which made my normally full hands slippery. I had the dog leash in one hand and my phone and ipod in the other. Normally I clip my ipod to my shorts but not today. Today, because SOMEONE had left my ipod in SOMEONE'S car, I had to use SOMEONE else's ipod which doesn't clip to anything Before you give me a thousand different ways I could have solved this problem, of the holding of gear, know that it's a story for another day, personal preference being what it is and all that.

The point is, my hands were full and slippery. Every few paces, I'd notice my hands were clutching the life out of my technology. It reminded me of something a very wise and gentle friend told me this summer. (Not my husband). He told me that I need to let go of the idea that I'm in control.

If you know me, you know I hate when people (my husband) tell me to "relax." My instant and strong reaction is rather the opposite of relaxation. My hackles raise up like a thousand little poisonous snakes ready to strike. I guess that makes me the middle(ish) aged version of a rebellious teenager. I'll relax when I'm darn good and ready to relax, thankyouverymuch. I like control. I enjoy control. When I know what to expect and who's going to be where and exactly when, I feel calm and reasonable. I feel, well, I feel in control.

Trouble is, life is uncontainable. It is largely ungovernable, especially by one as meek and lowly as I. When my friend told me I needed to let go, he was asking me to rethink how I viewed the world, asking me to see that my constant control-seeking kept me from relishing the peace of letting go.

So I'm running along this morning, cursing the dog as usual, and I get this image in my head: a brand new lump of play-dough, right out of the jar. It's all smooth and clean. It smells like salt and kindergarten. But, you notice...see, right there? There's a spot on the top that isn't quite blended in with the rest; it's sort of clumpy. So you reach out to smooth it, and in so doing, you make an impression with your thumb. Now you have to fix that, but you'll have to pick it up to do so, and before you know it, the cylindrical goodness that dumped out of the little tub is now a blob. With fingerprints on it. And some of it is on the floor and the table and under your fingernails. So you roll it up into an inexact spherical representation and put it down. Moments later, you're back to smoothing the edges, ready to get out the compass so you can verify it's symmetry.

That's how I approach life. And that's how approached the first week of school. I worry about my kids. What that tells you is that I'm a good mom. I worry and I pack lunches. Right there's your evidence. So, my eldest gets most of my social anxiety, because she prefers her own company, and her three best friends have all moved away. First week of school, I didn't care about classes, or homework or teachers. I wanted to know who was talking to her, to whom she was talking. Were there new kids who seemed nice? I made myself a tiny, annoying fly of repetition. She tolerated my anxiety. For a while.

Finally, kiddo told me to step off. "Mom. It's fine. I'm happy. Please stop bugging me about it." I knew it was coming. The increase in visible and verbal eye rolling? Off the charts.

But there's that lump of play-dough. I want to grab it and shape it and coax it and make it perfect. Or close. Or closer. And I'm running along, and I realize my shoulders have hunched a bit higher, my hands strangling the ipod. I hear my gentle friend's voice. "Let go."

I suspect this will be a lifelong journey of small steps. I hope the steps get farther and farther apart before I need reminding. I'm thankful for people who tell me the truth and help me to uncover it on my own. I suspect that image will stick in my head and help me to remember there is only One in control. And I'm not it.


  1. it is so hard because i have convinced myself for so long that i know me best and that i should really be in charge anyway...thanks for the beautifully worded reminder...

  2. Thank you. I definitely needed that insight.

  3. I kinda love that she told you to chill out. The way she did it shows she understood your concerns, but thought you were kinda loony. ;-)

  4. Friends, I sounds like it is one of those things that we have to keep learning, and relearning. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one. Thank you for your thoughtful comments.