The New Leaf

2013 hasn't started off the way I planned, and it's only Day 8. photo by Michael Bruner

I got a nasty cold, Christmas day, and it turned into one of the worst sinus infections of my life.  I'm still on antibiotics, Mucinex-D, and about 12 cups of tea a day.  Plans for Christmas-break trip to New Orleans:  cancelled.  Plans for work:  cancelled.  Plans for volunteering:  cancelled.  Plans for blog:  cancelled.  It's amazing, how a simple thing like mucus can totally thrash your life.

So I'm turning over the new leaf with some caution at this point, when it comes to my expectations.

I still have expectations about some of the events of the year ahead.

I expect some milestones.  I should (please, God) finish my counseling internship this year.  Next fall, our nest will have one little chick left in it, so we have parenting transitions ahead:  graduations and growing-up stuff.

I expect to enjoy life.  I want to hang out with friends, and do stuff with my kids.  Andy and I have our vacation travel planned for the year:  a balanced mix of snow and sun and sightseeing to anticipate with pleasure.

But what I don't expect is bound to happen.  And since I have lived with myself for almost 47 years now, here is what I know:  a lot of what I don't expect, I generally won't like.

I know some people like to go through life, just experiencing it as it comes.  The unexpected is a big thrill, an opportunity for adventure.

But I am not that girl.

I like structure.  I like predictability.  I like to have a plan and execute it well.

I do the best I can to be responsible when it comes to prevention.  Work hard.  Drive carefully.  Exercise.  Eat healthy(ish).  Don't smoke.  Get a flu shot and mammogram.

But I can't control everything.  The world doesn't work that way.  No matter how good I am, how hard I pray, stuff is going to happen.

Because the world is broken, and broken stuff happens here.

Little aggravating stuff like Attack of the Mutant Mucus.

And maybe some of the big stuff.  Health problems.  Job changes.  Relationships in turmoil.  Accidents, injuries, and deaths.

There is so much that I just don't know, can't predict, can't organize, can't control.  I can drive myself crazy, or I can learn to deal with it.

So I've been trying to treat the past few weeks as a little workshop to prepare me for the rest of the year, reminding myself of how to deal with the unexpected, without driving myself nuts.

Let it be.  This is challenging for me in normal times.  But we ended up with a lot of company this past weekend, and my house was NOT up to my personal standards.  I knew I could either have a clean house OR interact with my guests.  I would not have the energy for both.  It was a real, true exercise in self-control for me to not clean the house.  To just let it be.  But I managed to do it.  I enjoyed my guests.  My kitchen looked like it had been stripped by piranhas afterward, but it was totally worth it.

Ask for help.  I am the oldest of 7 children.  I am the mother of 4 children.  I am the therapist.  In other words, I've lived a lot of my life by this lie:  I am the helper, not the helpee.  It is hard for me to step back.  But nobody can step up, if I don't step back.  And my family has been fabulous while I've been sick.  Nobody whined when we cancelled the trip.  (Well, I did.  But nobody else.)  The laundry got done, the errands got run.  Our son Matt became the family chef, and introduced us to a whole new food group:  kale.  You can put that stuff in everything.  Who knew.  Here's the bottom line:  I love taking care of my family.  But it was really nice to let them take care of me.  Group hug, guys.  You rock.

Trust the Love.  This is what really drives my anxiety when things go off the beaten path:  the lie that if I somehow don't do everything right (even if I'm sick, and literally can't--you see how crazy this really gets), it's the end of the world as we know it.  Baloney.  Here's the truth:  I am safe in Love, no matter what.  Little aggravations, or big huge challenges.  Nothing, nothing, nothing separates me from God's love.  And that's the truth I have to cling to every day of 2013, for the expected, the unexpected, and everything in between.

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