I hit that magical 60th birthday in July this year and, since my family tends to stay active until their 80s and 90s, figure I have at least 25 years of productive living in front of me. That recognition has birthed a couple questions that seem to run through my head a lot—“If not now, when?” and, with apologies to Mary Oliver, “What else do you want to do with this one wild and precious life?”
Those questions have led me to thinking about the obstacles I continue to stumble over in my life. These are the personality traits and well-entrenched behavioral tendencies that ride herd on my dreams and plans, slowing them down, often to a standstill. For me they are self-doubt, fear, perfectionism, and an obdurate* tendency to want to tell the Universe how to run things.
While I can claim some genetic predisposition to this last trait (family members, you know who you are) I think it has more to do with a fear that if I don’t stay on top of what is going on around me, bad stuff will happen.
Those of you who know a bit about my life (if you don’t, and want to, click here) know that this is both illogical and a bit comical. Given what has happened in my last decade alone, apparently I’m really bad at running things, the Universe isn’t listening, or the Universe dances to a much more complex set of variables than I am capable of understanding or orchestrating. I’m inclined to believe the latter.
I also used to believe that playing Universe Hall Monitor would make me more love-worthy. Preventing potential crises seemed like a great way to prove my value. As it turns out, having “the” answers for people’s lives isn’t nearly as appreciated as one might think. Some people can even get a tad irritated by it.
This brings me to what I’m working on right now—trusting in the flow of life and seeing myself as lovable and perfect, even when what I do isn’t. It means giving up the idea that I can win lovability points or prevent the scary stuff by what I do. It’s a difficult process for me and often involves prying my grasping hands off of the reins of my life or someone else’s. I still catch myself in mid-sentence giving unsolicited advice more frequently than I would like to admit.
What makes it possible for me to consider retiring from my role as She Who Can Fix Things? Well, I’ve come to deeply believe three things about this human existence:
- We were born perfect and lovable. All you have to do is look at babies to know that. What child is unworthy of love? And if our parents and other important people in our lives didn’t reflect our perfect lovability back to us as children, it was about their own fears and doubts–not our worthiness or perfection. What we do or fail to do will not and cannot alter that core lovability.
- We are loved beyond measure by the Universe/God/Howard.** You figure out what that means to you, but to me “a love beyond measure” looks like the love I have for my son, immense and incalculable, and then multiplying that times Infinity. I figure when Someone loves you that much, They have your back–even if it doesn’t always look like it at the time.
- If I let the Universe handle the creative details, S/He will delight me. My boyfriend is a sterling example of this principle in action. I had no idea that it was possible to find a smart, loving and nurturing man in Dallas Texas who is a liberal, cooks beautifully and doesn’t like sports. Who knew? Apparently, the Universe did.
So, bottom line–I don’t have to be in charge to 1) win love or 2) prevent disasters. Don’t get me wrong. Bad stuff will happen though I really, really, really wish it wouldn’t. Normal, human safety precautions aside, the truly crappy events or situations seem to show up in everyone’s life at some time. At least, that’s been my experience and that of everyone I know and love.
But….numbers one through three (above) still are true, even when the scary, out of control, heart wrenching events of our lives come barreling through.
Lean on those ideas and consider, just for today, loosening the reins just a little bit, ok? I’m right there with you.
*obdurate–love that word—it means, among other things, pigheaded. Sometimes an apt description of my unwillingness to let go.
**The Universe/God/Howard–as in “Howard be thy name”–thank you Anne Lamott!