Driving Force


Before you report me to the local vehicular authorities, let me explain myself.

I have a problem with control.

As in, I strive for it far too much.

Dickens called Scrooge “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”  It’s not coins I’m clamoring for . . . but control?  Color me an addict.

The closer I look at this penchant for control, the deeper the reasons for it I find.  Abject terror of forgetting some important task that needs to be done.  Absolute overwhelm at the number of moving parts in any given day, week, month.  Stringent perfectionism for every task my mind or hands touch.

And yet, for all this toil and torment, I’m no closer to controlling the ins and outs of my days than I am to the bigger picture of my life.  If anything, these machinations cause me more grief.  In the drudgery of them, of course, but also in the false sense of security they provide.  Such a system is bound to implode, always on the edge of doing so, and when it does, of course, I blame myself for not keeping a handle on everything.

I’ve been working on that.

Controlling the minutiae of my day is not only tedious; it translates to an inability to trust in the direction God is leading me.  And while I am the one pulling the strings on the to-do list, I’ve lost an overarching belief in myself to craft a grand plan.

So instead of being entirely methodical (old habits die hard, right?), I’m going to try to get a little loosey goosey.  Try to dream faster than my Type A personality can plot.  Drift around the corners before my ass end can catch up.  Which is why this quote from Stirling Moss spoke to me.

You could argue that it is the perfect metaphor for the exact opposite of what I’m proposing.  To run away, get ahead of, keep a breakneck pace – and as someone with an internal tachometer often in the red, I certainly don’t need that sort of encouragement.  No, what I propose is acting on instinct, on the thrill of the moment, outdriving all the self-doubt and micromanaging – leaving the bottleneck of control behind and riding free and fierce into something I’d never allow myself if I stopped to measure the possible outcomes and fallout.

Now that’s something worth losing control over.

Mind Over Water

Treading water only lasts so long

At some point,
the pull of the boat or dock or shore
becomes too much

The edge of exhaustion creeps up
The doubt of how much longer the legs and arms can cycle,

When will the muscles or lungs give out?

The hand must be able to reach out –

To grasp the solid surface
To heave the dead weight up and out of the abyss.

Unless you decide to float

To rest your head in line with the water,
Arch your back toward the sky
Let your hands and feet sway like seaweed

Rest and freedom come with this release
But also require relinquish of control:

The moment your ears slip below the surface,
Deadening the sound of the world above,
Open only to the gentle sloshing below

The origin of your breath so close to submersion
Your lungs expanding above and below the water
Your bottom threatening to pull it all under.

Possible panic in action and inaction
All at the thin line where the water meets the air



Off the Grid

The irony of

one post about the beauty of staring into the fire

and the next

about not staring but rushing around willy-nilly

does not escape me.

Of life-giving warmth

giving meditative bliss and salve

being ignored for

frantic prepping and sapping of adrenaline that may be needed in actual emergency.

I get it.

My analytic mind senses the conundrum.

My overly expectant self wallows in the defeat of two house-bound days devoid of relaxation.

Though my electrical panel never lost power, I did.

The ability to worry is the only sort of control I have.

This House is My Baby

Three years ago, I was in the midst of the maelstrom known as kitchen renovation while designing my own dream space in utero.  In a house too small for three children and no money to move, we decided to do what we could about the logistics of our life.

We messed them up even more.

We ripped out the kitchen, thinking a more streamlined area would ease prepping and feeding three little mouths.  Streamlined is not a word to describe a kitchen reno or raising three children.

Demo started one month and one week before my due date.  Anal retentive to begin with and unknowingly suffering from a fledging case of postpartum depression, my list-making, obsessive planning, and futile attempts at control began.  I created calendars scheduling every detail.  I pushed my father-in-law to speed things up.  I perpetually pissed off our floor installer for constant e-mail updates.

I wanted that kitchen done before the baby came.  I needed running water to clean bottles and babies.  I needed the nasty mastic under the formerly linoleum floor covered up so any residual dust wouldn’t assault my newborn’s fragile airways.  I needed life in some kind of stasis before all hell broke loose.

How a finished kitchen would have prepared me for what happened in the delivery room and beyond is beyond me.  But I felt that some measure of control over my physical world would provide me some sense of control over everything else.  Well, I may not have known that then, but I can certainly see it now – especially since I’m trying to do it again.

Nearly three years to the day after the first pull of a crowbar in our kitchen, we’ve contracted a purchase and sales agreement on a new house.  Gorgeous kitchen aside, we’ve reached the limits of this house.  With one daughter just starting kindergarten and another young enough to make the switch to a new school hopefully not too traumatic, it seems like the perfect time.  Well, sort of.

With interest rates historically low, causing a backlog in bank closings, and a seller who has a cat with special needs (don’t ask), getting into this new house in time for the first day of school is becoming increasingly difficult.  And I can feel the anxiety ratcheting up as a result.  I can feel that nag mechanism gearing up for e-mail assaults on my realtor, unrealistic expectations from our loan officer, and an overall sense of unrest at the universe’s apparent disregard for my wishes.

Every fiber of my being is screaming – make it happen!  It must happen!  You have to get these kids in that house so they can find a home for their lunch boxes and a place to lay our their clothes for the first day of school, make a dry run to the bus stop, and get a feel for that new place as home before they have to figure out a new school, too.  It’s mommy guilt and good planning and type-A personality all rolled into one.  It’s also unrealistic.  Well, sort of.

If I felt any different, I wouldn’t be myself.  I just don’t roll that way.  And it’s coming from a desire to have the best for my children.

It also feels incredibly familiar.

Since 2004, I’ve been pregnant in two and a half year cycles.  When my youngest passed two years and seven months, I realized that was the oldest I’d ever had a child without expecting the next.  And I held my breath for the next three months.  No child number four, but we still embarked on a tumultuous endeavor: this whole house-buying thing.

This house has become my baby.

Apparently I cannot live through a two and half-year cycle without giving myself something to obsess about until it comes to fruition.  But while I see the parallels between my behavior now and then, at least there’s no such thing as post-house-buying depression – not until the first mortgage payment is due anyway.

The Perils of NFP

I awoke this morning with a thermometer in my eye.  My two and a half year-old, having recently mastered the art of crib climbing (as in, out of), came stealthily to my bedside and announced her presence by handing me my thermometer, point-first, in the eye.

“Thank you, honey,” I murmured as I deftly plucked it out of her little hand and out of range of my eye.

Rousing myself to face any day is hard enough – exhaustion keeping me down, thoughts of the daily grind keeping me from getting up.  A poke in the eye by a metal-tipped prod adds injury to the insult.

Every morning for more than a decade, I’ve taken my temperature before rising, marking it down on a chart as part of the Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning.  I’ve also noted other symptoms of my cycle, such as the start and duration of my period, any pain, etc.  For the most part, it’s been no problem.  For all the reasons that matter, I’m glad my husband and I have chosen this method to order the reproductive part of our lives.

Then there is the drawer of my bedside table, spewing charts from months past, always a pen, the thermometer.  One more thing to add to my morning routine – the taking of the temperature; and one more thing to do before bed – recording the temperature (because I usually don’t have – or take – the time to do it in the morning).

And the restraint it takes to successfully practice Natural Family Planning.  There are certain days in my cycle that we must abstain from sex if we wish to postpone or prevent pregnancy.  Then, there are days when it ‘might’ be safe.  That’s when the third ring of our circus (see last post) found her way into the world.  My husband may never get lucky during that range of days again!  Unless I/we decide to throw caution to the wind.

But, then, that’s the point of Natural Family Planning – and perhaps what makes it hardest for even the most God-fearing humans to practice.  Relinquishing control.

I may not have been ready for a baby at that time, and yet, I cannot imagine my life without her love in it.  And the personal struggles that I dealt with during my pregnancy and postpartum with her, have wrought changes in me that never would have happened had I waited until a time I deemed the right one.  The self-control and mutual respect that my husband and I had at the start of our marriage have blossomed into a stronger partnership as we follow this method.

With the ebb and flow of my body’s natural cycles, God has a chance to interject His will into our usually tightly structured plans.  There certainly is no peril in that.

Me getting over my control-freak tendencies – and avoiding blinding by impalement – that’s another story.  At least I can find a new spot for my thermometer – because I’m thinking the crib climbing is just the beginning.

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