I am the first to admit that I am not particularly good at “going with the flow.” I may not be fond of schedules (being over-scheduled actually makes me cranky), but I do like to know what to expect in any given situation. And the reason I want to know what to expect is so that I can prepare for it, fully and meticulously. Being prepared makes me feel as if I’m on top of things, and secure in the knowledge that I’ll be able to handle whatever situation happens to arise. Trust me, I would have made an amazing Boy Scout.
When I’m going to be spending the night at a hotel, I bring along a box fan, a pillow and a night light, just so I can be sure of getting a good night’s sleep. (I can only sleep on a soft pillow, the night light helps me find my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and the box fan drowns out the sounds of my husband’s snoring.) I don’t set foot on an airplane without a carry-on containing food and water (I was once stuck on a runway for five hours), a light sweater in case they turn up the AC, and a couple of crossword puzzles to pass the time. The trunk of my car is packed with emergency essentials, including a pair of comfortable walking shoes just in case the car breaks down and I have to walk to the nearest gas station. One way or another, I like to be prepared.
The problem is that there is so much in my life that I can’t possibly prepare for, and when that happens, I tend to get very anxious. For example, I didn’t plan to spend last month dealing with complicated dental problems, but that’s exactly what happened. And the situation was made even worse because I was never exactly sure what to expect at each office visit, which left me feeling completely unprepared and unsure of my ability to cope. That meant I spent a lot of time and energy in these past few weeks worrying and fretting about dental procedures that weren’t even all that bad when I actually had them done.
I may be almost sixty, but there are still many things I hope to learn in this life. And one of the biggest lessons I’m hoping to learn is how to let go of my belief that I can actually anticipate and prepare for all the problems that come my way. Because I realize that my obsession with being prepared is really just a way of trying to stay in control, and there is always going to be a portion of my life that is absolutely beyond my control. And just like everyone else in the world, I need to find a way to come to terms with that.
A good first step, I suppose, is focusing on the things that I can control (I will always travel with at least a fan and a pillow) and trying hard not to think so much about the things I can’t control. An even better step might be to remind myself that I am stronger and more resilient than I think I am, and that I am also resourceful enough to find solutions to problems when and if they present themselves. Because if I can remember that, then it’s so much easier to just let go of all the rest.