4 June 2010 10 comments

Lessons in control

4 June 2010 · 10 comments

in Uncategorized

A wise friend reminded me recently that the universe has a way of making sure you learn the lessons it wants to teach you.

Two years ago, I had a baby. He was breech, which meant I had to have a c-section (I had wanted to have a hypnobirth). He didn’t gain weight, so I had to feed him formula (I had wanted to nurse him). A new boss at my former employer didn’t believe in workshifting, so I ended up leaving the job within months (I had wanted to work a four-day week).

Throw in a bit of post-partum depression that took close to a year to diagnose, plus all the stresses and strains of first-time parenthood, and I learned a key lesson pretty fast:

I’m not in control.

So it was with some surprise that, prior to the birth of my second son four weeks ago, I realized the universe was at it again…

A week before I was full-term, my husband got stuck in Amsterdam (I know, there are worse places to get stuck) because of a volcano named by a cat walking across a keyboard. A week before I gave birth, a water main serving Boston and environs broke, so we had to boil all our water for four days. And five days before I was scheduled to deliver, my blood pressure spiked due to “atypical preeclampsia,” and rather than head on home from what should have been an innocuous doctor’s appointment, I was carted off to Labor and Delivery in a wheelchair to have a c-section…right then.

But this time the lesson wasn’t about what I do and don’t control, it was about what I’ve learned.

Two births, two years apart, each with their own challenges, and both carrying lessons in control.

Same lessons? Not by a long shot.

Two years ago the lessons were about finding peace with my own decisions. This time the lessons were about finding peace with things in which I had no decision-making role at all.

It can be tempting, in the midst of crises, to feel like you’re right back where you once were. That you’ve made no progress. That you can’t catch a break. That the setbacks are some kind of greater sign that you’re not yet where you should be.

Life isn’t a circle, sending you back on the same path over and over. When we think of life, and change, like that we lose the effect of time.

Time gives you perspective. Time means you’re never in the same spot twice—like climbing a spiral staircase (which, looked at from above or below, is a circle). Yes, you occasionally face the same wall, the same types of challenges (or even the same challenges), but each time you do, you’re in a different spot. Sometimes higher, sometimes lower, but always different.

That’s what time taught me. What has it taught you?

Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vincealongi/625732589/

  • I love, love, love this. This is so helpful to me. Thank you.

  • “…but each time you do, you're in a different spot.” LOVE THAT because sometimes it feels like I'm going in circles, but from that perspective, I'm SO NOT! Thank you! xoxo

  • What has it taught me? To be gentle with myself. I cannot force my will upon any situation or I may turn a rough situation worse. Time is a wise teacher.

  • Tamsen, isn't this what we talked about many weeks ago? Before the volcano/water main break/preeclampsia / c-section? There's a saying that you can't step into the same river twice. (Took me a while to get that one.) Same with the spirals. There is no rewind button on life. We keep moving forward, even when it looks like we're in the same spot AGAIN. The lessons might be a little different. Or we may be shown how resistant we are. Or we may get a chance at a Do-Over. (http://bit.ly/Do_Overs)

    I love your thinking, your soulfulness, and the way you write. Keep writing!

  • I'm so glad! It can be so hard to feel like we've made progress, but we always have. Time carries that gift.

  • You're welcome! Glad to see you here!

  • That it is. Now to follow the lessons!

  • Thanks, Kat. Your blog is a treasure trove of “just the right message, at just the right time.” Thank you for sending me to your Do-Over post. It is the same thing–and clearly it's a lesson (THE lesson?) I struggle with the most.

  • Thank you! This post made my day. It resonates with me in way too many ways to contain to one comment (but I'll try). First and for most, as a mother.

    I was in the same exact situation, in March, as you were with your first son. Having Lucy was perhaps my greatest lesson in letting go of control. In theory, I wanted to remain as fluid as possible – through pregnancy and birth. In reality, I was impatient and wanted it all to go a certain way — my way.

    In the end, it went Lucy's way, which turned out to be the best way for so many reasons. My body and Lucy knew what was best, and I needed to trust that. I'm forever grateful that I let go of control and trusted in things that I had no control of.

    In one month's time, I learned about letting go of control – and how to be paralyze by it. My Nana was gracefully passing while I was eight months pregnant. She knew she was dying, we knew she was dying, and we were given time with her. It was now up to me to determine what I would do with those few fleeting days. A once in a lifetime finite moment and I was paralyzed by it. It was scary, ambiguous, and in the end, a rare opportunity.

    My takeaways – life is always teaching us: I am continually working to embrace the present moment, learn lessons from the past, and be open to the growth that will manifest itself in future moments.

    I'm afraid this may have turned into a cathartic ramble, regardless, thank you! Be well.

  • clintstonebraker

    I love this post, probably because my wife went through something similar. When she was pregnant we planned the entire birth experience. After her water broke, the final examination revealed our daughter was breech. The result was an emergency C-section, not what we had planned.

    What I learned from this and other experiences in my life is to remain focused on the “what” rather than the “how”. What we wanted was to start a family. That was far more important than how it happened.

    I am often reminded of the fact that I have control over how I choose to react and what I choose to learn from life's curve balls. That is one area in which I have a say. When I keep this in mind, I bounce back much quicker. Thank you so much for this wonderful post!

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