The Blurry Line

 

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Your will be done.”  C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Now the trouble about trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you very often succeed.  C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

 

Bit by bit, ‘control’ is being wrenched from my cold, stiff fingers.

For years, I figured taking the lead was a necessary evil, especially if someone else (i.e. spouse or adult kids or people I considered irresponsible in general) dropped the ball. My goodness, if a ball is dropped, shouldn’t I pick it up and run with it?

Not always.

There’s a line. I haven’t been able to decipher it very well, or sometimes at all  . . . but God’s been trying to get into my thick head where that line is. It’s a moving target, let me tell you.

For instance, where is the line between teaching my (grown) kids what to do and trying to control them?

Where is the line between accomplishing my daily agenda and holding it loosely in case God has other plans?

Where is the line when a spouse attempts something I know in my heart will fail? Do I take control of the situation? (Not unless I want World War III to erupt, just sayin’.)

What gives me the right to think I know so much better than everyone else, anyway?

And that’s the point. I don’t.

I don’t know when God has his hands on someone else and He might allow a failure to teach them something. If I intervene, well, guess what? I slow down that process. I become a stumbling block.

When one of my grown kids has the temerity of soul to share a goal with their opinionated and strong-willed mom, do I criticize in a good-hearted but wrong-headed attempt to correct, or is it my selfish need to prove that I know better than they do?

Often I don’t. And that’s the point.

At this stage, my kids need less parenting and more friending. A few suggestions here and there, but more ‘attaboys’ and ‘way to go’s’ than exacting directives. Unless they ask, and then, of course, I’m a wellspring of knowledge.

Recently I had a situation with one of my kids that kind of punched me in the face. He thought I meant no, when really, I meant ‘let me teach you’. He thought I was controlling him, when I thought I was helping. He thought he was being independent and strong, and I thought he was, at the very least, being rude.

A Mexican standoff.

And guess what? He won. I scored a few points, but at what cost? It is futile to try to control another person, and perhaps I was.

As mentioned before, the line is a moving target. There are times a kid needs direction. Not control, direction. The line gets blurry. That’s when prayer helps point me in the right direction. And the right direction in this situation was to back off.

I can’t prevent someone else’s pain. I can’t prevent someone else’s failure. I can’t prevent someone else’s drive to accomplish whatever it is, even if I see them falling off a cliff. I can try to prevent it, but, again, I don’t know the whole story. God may have other plans and often I just need to get out of the way.

Let go.

Step aside.

Extend grace and generosity.

Be available if they need help, but don’t assume they need it if they don’t ask.

Trust God.

And finally, the point of all points: God has control of EVERY situation and I don’t.

 

 

 

 

Divvying Up

I’d put the trip off for a year or two, but I gritted my teeth and finally made the reservation to my brother and sister-in-law’s house in Tucson.

Point of trip: to divvy up the final remnants of my mother’s life.

Mom died in 2014 of dementia. It was a whirlwind horror. She’d hidden her disabilities behind sunny smiles and jokes and twinkly blue eyes. She had everyone fooled. It wasn’t hard for her to hide her condition since my brother and I didn’t live close by. When we found out, she was in the last stages of her disease. 2014 is best remembered for denial, then shock, and finally acceptance and a three-day road trip moving Mom to an assisted living facility in Arizona. In no time at all, she was gone. We arranged for the funeral in a state of disbelief.

So I’d put off this trip. Maybe I’m still in denial. I miss the daily phone calls and talking to the one person that was interested in every detail of my life. When the ficus tree I inherited from her and planted in my backyard died last year, I stubbornly refused to dig it up. “Give it a chance to come back,” I insisted.

But, like Mom, it didn’t.

Little pieces of her are slowly fading.

My sister-in-law had insisted my brother keep all the little knick-knacks and crystal, the random vases or bowls; the stacks of letters she and Dad exchanged when he’d been assigned overseas during his military career. She wanted to make sure I had a chance to go through it, and I’m grateful.

Initially,  when I cleaned out Mom’s house after we moved her, I had the unquenchable urge to toss everything that was left, as if in my anger at her abrupt departure I didn’t want to think about her absence; be reminded of the lack of her. In fact, I gave so much stuff to Goodwill that we had to buy her a new outfit to be buried in.

I am sad about that now.

To my relief, going through the remaining earthly trappings of her life proved easier this time. Less emotional. My brother and I shared memories reached from different perspectives; had conversations that told us a lot about each other.  As I watched him, I noticed the familiar shape of my long-deceased father’s hands, the chestnut-brown eyes so like Dad’s.  My mother’s teasing words coming out of his mouth. All so familiar.

Family. It must not be taken for granted.

We offered the remaining furniture to the grandkids, split the abundant wealth of photos and letters and whatever else we hoped to hold in our hands or hang on our walls in an effort to preserve history.

Among other things, I got my maternal grandmother’s diaries, a family Bible collection, and the jewelry I’d played dress-up with as a child. My grandmother’s diaries date from 1946. I cannot wait to dig into them. My mother saved pieces of her parents, just like my brother and I are saving pieces of her, lest we forget.

It is a sad fact, the fading of a parent’s life; but the love, the belonging, the certainty that I was wanted and planned for and undergirded with everything they could humanly give—these thoughts burn bright.

Anyway, I’m glad the divvying up is done, and all the little bits I selected will remind me of her.

And I will smile.

Writing Workshop Crafts Character

It wasn’t really something I just had to do.

But I’d told a lot of people I was going (in order to hold me accountable, kind of . . .  and to rekindle the fire to keep writing) and it helped set my mind that way. Though my feelings groaned and muttered at me, I managed to get up at 4:30 a.m., drive the 2-1/2 hours to Columbia, SC and make it by 8:45 to the host building, a cute, historical Lutheran church downtown.

I was welcomed with open arms, literally; a big hug from a talented and multi-published fellow writer I knew well, who introduced me to some new writers I’d not met, and we joined the throng to attend the first session, then the next, then broke for lunch. 

You never know who you’re going to meet at these things, andI’m not exactly shy, so I launched into conversations with most in my perimeter. Writers are the most interesting people on earth, I think. I love them. Most of them, anyway.

By the middle of the afternoon, my stamina and attention stumbled. I staggered to the coffeemaker. As we all know, a spurt or two of caffeine is usually enough to re-start the party and so . . . reclaiming my status as Chatty Cathy, I chatted up the guy who had appeared out of thin air beside me at the table. His back was toward me. I tapped his shoulder and asked him what genre he wrote in. (A certain ice-breaker at writers’ conferences.)

His salt-and-pepper brows raised slightly, he turned. We shook hands and introduced ourselves.

“I write in several genres,” he said, then added, “I’m the most unknown writer you’ll ever meet.”

My brow puckered. He laughed and then listed title after title, award after award, until he finally ran out of breath. Thank God, I thought, as I interrupted his droning, waving my arms in mock protest.  “Stop, stop! You’re intimidating me! I have just one book published!”

He gave me a pitying stare and changed the subject. Or I did. I forget. We didn’t talk much after that. Or at all. Continue reading