Friday, March 4, 2016

It Is Well With My Soul.

Last night, I sat on the couch, watching television with Jude, as he sprawled out next to me and tapped his fingers rhythmically on the cushion between us. I reached over, grabbed his hand, and told him to stop. So he laughed and started tapping again.

"Why do you care if I tap on the couch?", he asked.

"I don't know. It's just... Stop doing it."

He started again and I grabbed his hand, pushing it forcefully away from the cushion. The truth is, I didn't know why it was bothering me, only that it was and I wanted him to stop as soon as I told him to. When I didn't get what I wanted, I got frustrated and visibly annoyed, and, Jude, noticing that I was actually getting upset about it, stopped tapping. I got what I wanted, but later felt bad about it.

Why DID I care whether or not he was tapping?

This morning, sitting in the school drop off lane, it was clearly our turn to hurry up and get out of the car. My middle child likes to do things a certain way, which for some reason, includes the need to put her backpack on inside the car before opening the door. It takes an entire eternity to convince her to get out each morning, and each morning, I beg of her to please just open the door and do it outside so I can go. I don't want to be that mom who holds up the line and ends up pissing everyone off, so of course, when she refuses, we butt heads, and I end up being that asshole who holds up the car line anyway. No matter how much I try, she still ends up putting her backpack on first, I yell and gesture like an angry referee and then she sulks. As projected, she got out sulking, and walked away slowly, further and further out of my line of sight, and, as I sat there, I realized that I was waiting for other cars anyway. I could have been patient with her, but I snapped, and in retrospect, felt really bad about it.

Why WASN'T I more patient?

The things I can't control drive me insane. I've noticed that I try to micro-manage the environments and actions of the people I consider to be in my charge, and when things don't go my way, I get frustrated. I'm sometimes unreasonable that way.

But why? Why am I such a Dictator in these moments? I'm not always like, this. Most of the time, this sort of stuff wouldn't even be on my radar, so why, in these moments, do I feel the need to bark like a general, instead of just letting it roll off my back?

I thought about it, and this weekend is going to be very stressful. Today is going to be very stressful. When I know that I have a lot on my plate, most of which I can't control, I exercise control in the areas I think I can, and I become an irrational pain in the ass. Entire weekend worth of things I can't control = mom tells everyone what to think and do and wear. I play the things I can close to my vest and I let the thoughts of all of the other things I've yet to figure out swallow me whole.

So as I pulled away from the school parking lot, I did what I often do when I feel absolutely terrible about something I can't change at the moment; I turned on The Beatles, "Let it Be", and twisted the volume until I could no longer think about anything but the words.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the broken-hearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Yeah, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Ah, let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music,
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Oh, there will be an answer, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

I pulled into our parking lot, sighing and struggling to forgive myself for how I'd behaved. Why does that song have such an effect on me? Why do I feel so much better when I listen to it?

I realized that during the moments where I was belting out the words that I was surrendering to my circumstances. I couldn't go back and fix the things that had already happened, and so I needed to let it be so that I could move on with my day. I looked back, and forgave myself, and so I felt better. It always makes me feel better to consciously acknowledge how tightly I'm gripping and allow myself to just let go.

So how can I bring that sense of calm to how I deal with a situation?

I often refer to biblical verses and hymns, even though I don't consider myself to be religious, or even necessarily spiritual. I find the lessons within the stories to be thought provoking, and I'm nothing if not an over-thinker. I do consider myself to be a deeply philosophical person, which is what motivates me to write, and what is religion, if not organized philosophy?

One of the hymnals that I've come across has inspired thought in me today. There was a man named Horatio Spafford, who wrote a hymn titled, It Is Well With My Soul. Horatio was a business man, who'd lost his only son, and then lost his life savings in the great Chicago Fire. He was supposed to sail to Europe with his family, but had to change travel plans to accommodate a fire related business deal. He told his wife and four daughters to go ahead and he'd meet up with them when his business was through in Chicago, but shortly after setting sail, the ship that his family was on collided into another vessel and sank, killing all four of his daughters. As Horatio traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write this hymn as he passed through where his daughters had died.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

If a man who lost everything could surrender his control and find a way to move forward, surely I can surrender my control to the powers that be at let what happens, happen this weekend. Stress is temporary and the actions that you take moving forward from hardships are what define you. I don't need to tell people to stop tapping, or to put their backpacks on a certain way, I need to be more mindful of my own actions toward others and not projecting my stress onto them.

I'm realizing that what I need to do to move forward is to apply the same logic. I need to surrender to my circumstances, admit that I have no control over what is going to happen, and just learn to let it go. In church, they tell you to surrender your troubles to God. In AA/NA, the first step is to admit that you are powerless. There is a sense of relief when you admit that you can't control what's happening to you.-- So my first step, as a control freak, is to let it be and admit that whatever happens, it is well with my soul. We'll see how this goes.

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