There was a time, in all my innocence, that I really believed that if I just did everything right all the time, and controlled everything in my life, that nothing bad would or could ever happen to my kids. I agonized over every action, I beat myself up for every mistake, and I rarely let go to just feel happy, afraid that being too happy would invite something bad on us. I learned some really hard truths that showed me that this is not the case. Bad things happen to good people all the time and we all have to learn how to deal with those things and carry on.
The worst thing for a control freak to find out is that they are not actually ever in control. It causes a lot of anxiety and stress, even though having this tight grip on every outcome also causes a lot of anxiety and stress.
In 2016, my daughter was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. A short while later, my oldest son broke his leg badly in an airborne jump in the army. Next, another of my sons was diagnosed with the same autoimmune disease, which caused him to be medically disqualified from the army. These three events really threw me. I was angry at God, I was angry at other moms whose kids had no medical issues, and I was feeling that somehow all of it was my fault.
During this time, I wrote pages and pages of journal entries, read so many good books on getting through hard times, I meditated and prayed. It took me some real soul searching and learning to finally come to grips with the lack of control that I actually had in my life. Really, in essence, all I can control is my reaction to things. So, what should my default reaction be? I decided that I am going to celebrate.
I used to try to dim my feelings of joy for accomplishments because I didn’t want to seem like a braggart or too proud of my kids. I didn’t want other people to think I thought my kids were perfect. I know they are not perfect and my celebration of their accomplishments doesn’t mean that and really has nothing to do with anyone else. It is merely just me finding joy in all the good stuff.
When bad times rolled around again in 2019, I had more tools in my toolbox. Another daughter and son were diagnosed with epilepsy and it was extremely stressful to have kids having seizures. Like so very stressful, you guys. I can’t even explain how awful it is to see.
I tried so hard not to let a year go by before I felt joy again. I started walking five miles every day, knowing that nature produces joy. During my walks, I would just focus on feeling everything that needed feeling. Some days I cried as I walked and begged God to heal them and some days I felt the sun on my face and accepted what is. Through all these miles, I stopped trying to control what I felt and just let it come at me, happy or sad.
And through it all, good things still happened in spite of the bad things. Kids still made straight As and free throws. Engagements still happened, grandbabies were still born, and kids were still accepted into grad school. There is so much good. It really overshadows everything else if you let it. Now I make it my goal to celebrate all of it, no matter how small. Because good deserves to be celebrated.
What did I learn through all of this? I learned that no matter how much I might want to control everything and no matter how much I try to always do everything right and perfect, bad things are still going to happen. But, so are good things.
Life is filled with valleys and peaks and while we may be weeping and mourning in the valley, it doesn’t mean that we can't laugh and celebrate when we get to the peak.
“The more we celebrate the good things, the more joy and light we will have to carry us through the darkness.”
Maybe some of you are control freaks like me? Maybe you go through life clinging to things and working so very hard to control all outcomes, that you kind of fall to pieces when things spin out of your tightly clenched fists. Let go. Let it all come in and go out as it should and stop your intense efforts to always orchestrate it all. Good and bad will happen anyway.
But, do celebrate ALL the good for yourself and for your kids. I give you permission to let go and just feel the joy. Feel it and celebrate it, from good grades to kind acts to home runs, celebrate. The joy makes everything else in life worth it.