Giving up the illusion of being “in charge”

“It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what’s keeping things running right. We’re bugs struggling in the river, brightly visible to the trout below. With that fact in mind, people like me make up all these rules to give us the illusion that we are in charge.”

I read this yesterday in a book, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It deeply resonated with me. I have spent most of my life thinking that if I could figure out all the answers, that if I could “do life correctly,” that my life would be good and my loved ones and I would be happy. That if I dotted all my “i’s” and crossed all my “t’s” and followed all the rules that I was trained by society to accept and that I gave to myself, that all would work out the way that I hoped.

But that is just not how life goes.

And we have much less control than we think.

That’s not to say that we have no choices. We do. There are times in our life, many times, when our choices DO shape our path the way that we expect, when we can make a decision and follow a path along for awhile, just as we planned. But if there is one thing that I am sure of in life now, it’s that the path ahead will never go straight ahead as we hope. It will take unexpected turns and detours and we will end up going places that we never thought were possible, in both good and bad ways.

And one of those choices we have is how we handle ourselves when the path turns in a way that is painful for us.

I’m dealing with this now. My youngest child, the one that I have written about before, who has an eating disorder, is now having a major mental health crisis again. It’s been very difficult. I have literally spent days on end looking up programs and resources and trying to figure out how to help him, while he sits at home unable to go to school, suffering and wanting to die. I sit with him and try to support him. But nothing helps. He is stuck in his head in a seemingly-endless painful spiral and I cannot reach him right now.

And so of course that triggers in me this fear that I am somehow to blame for this. That I am a terrible mother. And even though I know that is not true, it’s still so hard.

So, these days, I need to remember what Anne Lamott wrote – that it’s more helpful if I resign as the controller of my fate, resign as the controller of the fate of my child. I can just do the best that I can to love him and care for him and care for myself, and that has to be enough. Beating myself up about his pain is not going to help me or him.

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