Through my divorce and then my illness, I learned first that no matter how carefully I planned out my life, things could still go haywire, and second, that sometimes, if you just let things be what they are and trust the process they often (i.e. almost always) turn out better than you’d planned.
It hasn’t always been this way.
I used to be a control freak. (The resumé term for this is “detail oriented.”)
I liked things to be just so. I lived with the illusion that if I could just bend circumstances my way, I could save the world, or in the very least the worlds of those I loved.
But my experiences over the last 12 years changed all that. In fact, I’ve swung so far in the opposite direction that I sort of drift through my days in a happy haze that probably drives more organized people insane.
I admit to being perhaps a bit too proud of this new mellow version of me. I’d look at other people stressing out about this, that, or the other, and quietly thank God that I was so much more emotionally evolved than that now.
Here is one of many life lessons I’m sharing with you today…
Do not ever – and I do me ever – brag or feel self-righteous about anything. Ever.
Life will humble you and cut you down to size every single time.
I’ve learned this lesson so many times in my life, yet I keep unlearning it. And the second I do, smack! Life slaps me upside the head and puts me back in line.
To say that I have not been chill about the state of the world these past six months is an understatement. In truth, I have been in full-on panic mode since the day coronavirus was discovered.
When they shut down the schools, I was okay with it at first.
I enjoyed homeschooling and the cozy family time with my kids. I’m an introvert, so I don’t really require that much social interaction anyway.
Homeschooling was rough towards the end of the school year, but we made it through and summer began and I was still pretty chill.
Then fire season picked up for my husband, and we were confronted with the notion of him being stationed out-of-state.
Then the cases started picking up in our area.
Then people started talking about murder hornets, which never actually materialized that I’m aware of, or maybe they did but everyone was hiding inside and thus no one was murdered by them, or maybe it didn’t make the news because our government and economy was falling into ruin amidst a global pandemic and cops were killing and being killed and people were protesting and rioters were looting and Kobe and Kenny Rogers and Jerry Stiller and Little Richard and James Lipton and Fred Willard and Naya Rivera and Kelly Preston and Carl Reiner and Regis and John Lewis died.
And y’all, I just lost it. I lost my chill. All. Of. It.
I went straight up nuts.
And by nuts, I mean I went back to thinking I could save the world if only people would do as I say.
I thought if I researched enough I could solve all the problems, which I would then share so eloquently with everyone around me that I would convince them that my solution was the best and everything would be fine.
I have tried this so many times in the past.
Not once has it worked.
But, knowing this did not stop me from trying once again. And the less it worked, the more time and energy I poured into research, and the more of myself that was lost to my family, friends, and faith.
Funny thing. People kept on being themselves, holding their own opinions, going about their own business. Weren’t they listening? Didn’t they care what I had to say?
If they knew how much time I’d put into this, how much this was taking away from my family, what a pit-hole of filth my house was becoming, how greasy my hair was, as I ignored all daily tasks in order to save the world, they’d take me more seriously.
When I finally came up for air, took a shower, and bought some groceries, I was stunned to realize that while I had been under, the school year was fast approaching!
And thus I became a COVID Karen.*
I emailed links to articles to my local and state school officials. I’m certain this was extremely helpful. I’m certain they had done none of this research, and thought of none of these things themselves. Lucky they had me.
To their credit, most of them replied politely, thanking me for sharing with them. I was expecting to receive an outline of their entire school reopening plan that included all of my helpful suggestions. But whatever.
When I did not get the desired response at the administrative level, I went to the teachers I knew. I begged for inside information. I made more very helpful suggestions.
They knew frustratingly little more than I did about what school would look like in the fall. Furthermore, they were not nearly as excited as I thought they’d be at my suggestions on how to arrange their classrooms or handle social distancing at school.
The phrase, “I know this is coming from a good place…” was written in response to one of my more impassioned messages. Something stirred deep within me when I read this. Something that said I was being super annoying and unhelpful.
But in the end, my fear won out. I soldiered on.
Next I went to the (former) president of the PTA. Surely she would be interested in all of my excellent ideas.
Much to my dismay, she reacted similarly to the teachers.
In essence, the message was always the same, “Thank you for your concern. I’m worried too. The situation changes every day. These are good ideas but here are the reasons they wouldn’t work.”
Finally, after collapsing in despair with a days-long migraine, I had to accept what deep down I already knew. This situation was completely and utterly out of my control.
I knew what I needed to do:
Let things be what they are.
Trust the process.
I’m embarrassed now by how I’ve behaved this summer.
I’ve annoyed and alienated people by acting as though I knew better than they do, many of them experts in their fields.
I’ve learned (or rather, relearned) that I must be ever-mindful of my own growth, my own personal evolution as a good and decent human; that this is the one and only thing over which I truly have any control.
And I’ve realized that it is impossible to be both terrified and chill.
You can let fear be the boss, or faith be the boss, but you can’t do both.
*I have a sister-in-law who is actually named Karen. I told her I was writing this post, and she said ‘go for it!’ She’s a good sport.
Copyright © 2020 Sara Beth Wald