Life off the cuff. That’s the name of this new blog, to reflect a new, very foreign-to-me, way of thinking and being. Because life keeps proving to be, in so many a myriad of ways, unexpected. But let’s not get too crazy. Just because I am finally starting to be able to sort of take things as they come – or, roll with the punches, as they say – does not mean I’m a totally reformed, rigid, A-personality type.
I came into this world this way. Ever since I can remember, I have liked things organized; life’s circumstances packed in neatly packaged little boxes with pretty pink bows. As someone who has long battled anxiety, when my outer world is chaotic – this includes physical things, like my home being a total mess, as well as occurrences, like when my or my kids’ days have no clear rhythm or routine to them – when things look and feel disorganized, I feel extremely out of control. My anxiety begins ferociously flapping like angry birds. The wave of panic starts deep in my gut and moves quickly up my belly and into my throat, where it settles in for the long haul. Or, until I remember to deeply breathe and remind myself that I AM in control of my body and brain, I have the power to stop the anxiety stampede, that things will be organized again soon (only to become chaos again later…), and that no one is dying, and no one is hurt. This seemingly obvious perspective — something I’ve only recently been able to grasp — is my lifeboat. I hold on with all my might until the birds stop thrashing, and the waves of panic dissipate.
It hasn’t always been this way. My ability to calm myself down (or even be calmed down by others) during a bout of panic has taken a lot of work to attain. Hard work. Work I’m proud of. And this is where my newfound ability to mostly accept life off the cuff has stemmed from. Things happen. Life happens. I will never stop hating that I have no control over this, but I am working on welcoming life — in all its unexpected, off the cuff glory — into my heart. After 36 years, as my mom has always begged me to do, I’m finally learning to “roll with it” (with a dose of worry, of course, that goes along with it).
But here’s the thing, and this is important: I will always be me. My type-A’ness is also what makes me efficient, responsible, and organized. In other words, I get shit done. Always. On time. I’m as reliable as they get. I love this part of me; I don’t view this as a bad thing, as long as I can learn to be flexible and adaptable too. This is part of that hard work I mentioned before – I’m learning the fine art of flexibility. Because it’s not just important for me, but for my kids too. I really do get that. I want them to be reliable too, of course, but not rigid. I want them to actually LIVE their lives, not miss the sparkling moments because they are planning for every possible outcome to any given situation at every single moment of the day.
None of this is to say I won’t always be a planner. I will. And I will organize the kids’ days, because I firmly do believe that routine and boundaries are important in life and that kids feel safe within the confines of a FLEXIBLE schedule; it’s important to know what’s coming next. It helps all humans, young and old. But flexible is the operative word — the one I’m still working on. In the past, I planned my and my kids’ days to the minute. If they weren’t down for nap or bed on the exact timeframe I wanted them to be, I simply couldn’t handle it and would melt down. While it’s still crucial to me that my kids go down for naps and bed BEFORE they reach that awful overtired/wired stage when it becomes impossible to get them to fall or stay asleep, I’m a bit more forgiving about it (though I believe sleep is hugely important for my family’s wellbeing, health and happiness, and I will always do what I can to protect it and ensure we’re getting enough). But if they miss the nap window by a bit, or go down for bed a tad late, no one will die (see? THIS IS PROGRESS!). Life will go on. And the kids? Well, they — and we — are gonna be okay.