Uncle. I surrender. Here’s my white flag representing humility and defeat. I tried with all my might to master my own destiny this past year, and destiny wasn’t having it. I now concede failure. I will stop trying to control things over which I have no control.
These sentiments are at odds with my outward persona. I typically appear to be laid back and carefree about things like destiny, and my nickname Dizzy Lizzy stuck around for quite a while. Sometimes, I am carefree. I act as if I really don’t care about such-and-such or blankity-blank.
Lately, though, in fact for the past year, my mind has felt like a splintered tree branch and everything feels difficult. Sure, I was passed over for that amazing job opportunity, and we didn’t get the house we loved, but where is my resilience? Where is Dizzy Lizzy, who would simply set a new course? I want to regain the ability I had, to bend before I break into a million pieces – so I reflected on the year to try and tease out a common thread.
What kept bubbling up was that I didn’t communicate outwardly what I felt inwardly on any occasions of importance, like the prospective dream job and forever home. When I was twenty-five and independent, I may have made these same communication errors, but it was much easier to assess and get back on course or even change course.
No-go on the organic farm internship? I’ll move to San Francisco instead! Illustration “feels” like a great career path? I’ll take that low-paying part-time job to check it out!
I have worked to dispel the Dizzy Lizzy image I portrayed for so many years. My authentic self is actually not that laid back. I like to possess a modicum of control over my life, and sometimes, I really do care about such-and-such or blankity-blank.
So why am I thinking about this now? I realized that for the first time in ten years, I am not being swept along in the current. Life has settled into the closest form of cruise control one can have as a family with two working parents, two young kids, and an aging dog. The pace has allowed me to take stock on where we are as a family and where I am as an individual.
It hasn’t been easy. Reflecting on the hard is really hard, and I fear that I shunned Dizzy Lizzy too harshly for being amenable to the ebbs and flows of life.
Take, for instance, the recent occasion of finding a possible new house. My husband and I were charmed by an unexpected listing in our neighborhood and felt like we had to make a stab at the offer process. I didn’t mention it to colleagues and only to a few friends. Yet overnight I became enraptured by this house.
In my mind, this was the house. This is where I would raise my children and grow old. I pictured reading in the front sunroom and potting in the back shed. I picked out a sunny spot for cukes and where we’d add a fence for the dog. After eight years of living in a house I bought as a single woman, and now share with my motley crew, I looked to this new house as space where I could exhale. In essence, the potential of this house embodied my vision for our future.
When we lost the house to a higher bid, my husband shrugged it off with a solid but fleeting “darn,” while I felt like someone had just yanked away my life’s dreams. But here’s the thing: I never shared my heartfelt ruminations about potting sheds and fences. Not once did I approach my husband to say that regardless of the outcome for this particular house, I needed space, both literal and figurative, to breathe, so that I could reconnect with my intentions and voice them adequately.
I realized where we were was not where I wanted to be. I was devastated enough that I retold this story to a friend who distilled my ramblings into a succinct observation: What I felt was a sense of loss – of my ideals, my vision, of control over my own destiny.
This hit me in the gut. It implied that I might not be living the way I hoped, and thus wasn’t happy at all, as though I woke up on a train after missing my stop. For as long as I can remember, whether moving across the country post-college, or watching my kids take their first steps, there was forward momentum.
Heck, in the past decade alone I’ve married, birthed two children and changed jobs. It has been amazing and abundant and overwhelming and stifling but certainly without time to question the control I possessed over any of it. Now that I stood still, I saw that the disparity between my interiority and my exteriority was a glacial valley filled with husband, kids, parents, and colleagues, whose input, needs, and influence were a major factor in my decisions. It made me feel rattled, guilty, and sad.
What would I change, though? Really, none of it. Each decision was made to the best of my ability at the time, and led to an outcome that required new decisions. Slowly, incrementally, and fortunately, my life has unfolded. Reflecting on what was hard this past year made me see that I was trying to make sweeping, dramatic changes to effect a new course of momentum, and destiny told me to back off!
I get it now. I finally listened and counted to 10 like I tell my kids to do in times of frustration. From now on, rather than survive on splintered thoughts that never get shaped into words or actions, I endeavor to connect from a deeper level with my interiority to stay the course.
And that house that broke the camel’s back? We move in next month.