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Posts Tagged ‘control’

Cliff Diver, MAZATLAN

It takes radical trust to live a life based on love rather than fear.  It takes a freefall dive off the Cliffs of Insanity (I do love my Princess Bride references) into the flowing waters of God’s mercy, not knowing for sure whether you will ever surface again.

When Big Change is happening — as it is in my personal life and as it is happening in the world — it is easy to live in fear.  It’s all around us, almost in the air we breathe.   The world encourages us to feel that there is no security, either for ourselves or for our children.

It doesn’t help that life seems to be arranged so that we can only see a step or two ahead of us.  We can’t see what will happen, and no matter how hard we try to control things, life often refuses to cooperate with our plans.  One of my favorite prayers, written by Thomas Merton, acknowledges this truth:

MY LORD GOD,

I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me.

I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself,

and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.

I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.

I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

– Thomas Merton, “Thoughts in Solitude”

The fearful honesty in this prayer is both frightening and comforting at the same time.  Frightening, because in order finally to admit that we don’t know where we are going, a part of ourselves has to die.  Comforting, because once we do accept that truth deep in our bones, we find that we are held and supported in ways that are unseen, yet tangible.

A year and a half or so ago, My Guy and I were driving back from the Bay Area to Southern California, with Little Bird sleeping in the back seat.  We talked about how we wanted to live a life that was more aligned with nature.  We wanted to grow at least some of our own food and have some outdoor space for a change.  We wanted to be closer to family in the Bay Area.  It seemed impossible.

Now comes the part that will make my non-religious peeps cringe:  we prayed about it.  We asked for help.  We let go of the idea that we could make this happen.  And now here we are, getting ready to move to a house in the Santa Cruz mountains with a third of an acre of usable land, a chicken house, and solar panels.  It defies belief.

I know a lot of people who are going through some dark times.  I have gone through some dark times myself, and have wondered when the light would shine again.  Right now, however, the sun is shining, and I simply want to shout out from the other side, “You can trust in the goodness of life.”

I know that everything could change tomorrow, but that God would be with me still.  And because I know that, Hildegard of Bingen’s reassurance rings true:  “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

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o is for open

Image by Michael W. May via Flick

“I’m in charge here.”

My 2 1/2-year-old girl, known here as Little Bird, uttered these words recently and repeatedly.  This was the latest salvo in her ongoing battle to control everyone in her world and everything that happens to her.  As her pediatrician said at her 2-year checkup, “It’s all about control at this age.”  Boy howdy, is it ever.

But don’t we all want to be in charge?  I know I do, and I get just plain cranky when I lose the control.  Which happens about a million times a day, every day.  The trick for me is knowing:

(a) which things I can control;

(b) which things I cannot control; and

(c) letting go of the things that fall under (b) above.

That rotten old (c) is the kicker, of course, and the most difficult part of the journey.

In The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See, Richard Rohr says that “all great spirituality is somehow about letting go.”  (64)  The good news — or bad news, depending on how you look at it — is that being a stay-at-home mom or dad is a spiritual bootcamp.  Every single freakin’ day presents multiple opportunities to practice letting go of control.  We should all be canonized as saints.

For example, a few months ago, my Little Bird was suffering from fierce separation anxiety, especially at naptime and bedtime.  When I tried to leave her room, she would cry big fat tears and say pitifully, “Mama walked away!”  I was at my wit’s end to know how to help her through this.  Mama Guilt started to whisper in my ear, “You’re such a crappy Mom . . . why can’t you help her . . . why can’t you solve this problem?”

Two grace moments occurred to help me through this.  First, I did some Internet research, and realized that this was just a phase.  That’s all it was, not the end of the world as we know it.  Whew.

Second, I realized that I am not responsible for my child’s feelings.  She is her own person, with her own feelings.  If I try to control or manage her feelings, I am essentially violating her personhood.  I can do my best to support her in what she is going through, but in the end, she must go through it herself — as we all must.

This recognition helped me to surrender my desire to change Little Bird’s feelings.  I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and let it go.  Once I did that, I felt a spaciousness inside me.  My frustration and guilt washed away like the tide, and compassion flowed in.  It was both cleansing and liberating.

I was then able to say to Little Bird with a calm heart, “I can see that you are having a hard time and you are having some big feelings.  I know that you will be okay.”  While her anxiety didn’t completely go away, it did ease up, and we had a rest period before entering the next scene in the drama called “Bedtime.”

This particular scene reminded me that I can live my life like a tight fist, grasping for control over life’s uncertainties.  Or I can live life with open hands, freely surrendering those things that do not serve me or those I love.

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