I’m so sick of my nagging self. I woke up at four in the morning yesterday, sat up and promised Ruby, our orange cat staring at me from the foot of the bed, that I would not let one negative word come out of my mouth for twenty-four hours.
Given my mood, that was the best I could do.
Usually a glass-half-full kind of person, I’ve been taking note of how obnoxious and short tempered I’ve been with my family. Some of it’s due to the end of the school year event-a-thon, but there are tectonic changes too. The kind that involve big issues and life transitions.
It all begins with a thought. Control is a possession that starts from behind my eyes, scanning for weaknesses and problems that may arise in the upcoming chapters of my What If Manifesto. It reads like one of those Worst Case Scenario guides but is much darker and survival is not guaranteed.
I can keep the demon contained for only so long. I get restless and quiet. It’s never a good sign when the kids start asking me what’s wrong.
It’s downhill from there. The glass-half-full version of me stands to the side and shakes her head as the glass-broken-in-shards version is sighing, complaining and enlightening each family member about how they could improve their lives.
“I’m just trying to help,” I say with that crazed look in my eyes.
This is familiar ground for me. Although I’m now more adept at negotiating a truce with the demon, a couple of weeks ago I just waved the snarling creature in for a visit. When I get this cozy with Control, I feel like I did as a kid swinging on the monkey bars in the summer. I’m holding on by one hand, not yet within reach of the next rung, and worried that I’m losing my sweaty grip.
I delude myself into thinking that I can keep myself and everyone I love from slipping.
Control tells me that it is my job to protect my family members from themselves while I conjure up their next rung so they won’t precariously fling themselves into the future. That’s where my minds goes when it’s presented with a larger than usual serving of uncertainty.
Life according to my What If Manifesto.
It’s an exhausting mental exercise. Fortunately, I have been given children and a husband who are skilled exorcists and balk when my head spins. My oldest son, making a brief pitstop home between the end of his sophomore year and an internship abroad, doesn’t much give much of a hoot about my manifesto. He’s twenty. What could go wrong? The other three are even less impressed with my hectoring.
It turns out that they all actually listened to my advice over the years.
Since they could understand, I’ve told the kids that they’re always just one thought away from changing their perspective. I’ve reminded them over and over that their worldview and actions arise from what they think and that the fastest way out of the mental weeds is a change of attitude.
I made it through the first twenty-four hours and decided to try for another day. This time I voiced my intention to my family and not just the cat. I created a new context and offered an apology. I’m still feeling on shaky ground with serenity but have managed to make use of that game changing, millisecond pause before my thoughts become words.
Are my words true? Are my words necessary? Are my words kind?
Control evaporates in the face of such simplicity. So far everyone is making it across the monkey bars just fine.