I do not consider myself a control freak. I have certain little mishegas — Yiddish for silly, er, maybe crazy habits. I can’t tolerate when the front foyer light is left on, I’ll literally drop everything to go turn it off. A kitchen cabinet door left open? That’s akin for me of every fingernail of every child in America scraping a chalkboard. Sometimes to tease me, my kids would leave every cabinet open. Just for laughs. Ha. Ha. Ha.
But in general, when things happen outside my control, I try to accept them.
Like the weather.
By the time you’re reading this, summer might have arrived. I know it’s July 12 and those science-minded folks who chose meteorology as a profession told us summer started June 21. It didn’t. All those high-pressure domes — or is it low-pressure fronts? — are out of their control, too. And they seem pretty sanguine about it when you watch them on the evening news. Perhaps a required course at meteorology school, in addition to using a green screen, is on the benefits of taking deep breaths and practicing radical acceptance.
I should try to control how many times I refresh the weather app on my iPhone. Last week, the little AI robot spitting out our forecast was having a great data-driven laugh at our expense. Sun for the next three minutes, light rain for the next 1,072. Every time I clicked on the app, the promised sun, whether in a few hours or a few days, had switched back to the world’s most demoralizing emoji, a cloud with raindrops falling from it. It’s been said that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing choices. Tell that to my mood, which was not improved whatsoever by a raincoat and hat. Deep breaths, radical acceptance.
What else is out of my control? The closure of the Sumner Tunnel. Anyone else feel, as I do, like the soon-to-be stranded passengers on the Minnow? A three-hour tour, um, commute to Boston? Officials are pitching “ditch the drive” and offering all manner of alternative ways to get into the city. I was kind of intrigued by the idea of taking the Lynn Ferry, until I saw how limited the hours of operation were. And then I read a quote from a former state transportation secretary known as a zealot when it comes to advocating for public transit. Will people actually ditch the drive and lessen the traffic nightmare? “I personally doubt it,” he said. Luckily, I don’t have to go into Boston regularly. For those of you who do? Deep breaths, radical acceptance.
What else can’t I control? The conniving backyard evildoer previously known as the Eastern gray squirrel. I am trying to do a more careful job this season of tending to my tomato plants. I’ve pruned them, propped them and picked off those little suckers which drain the plant’s growing energy. I faithfully keep my little plot surrounded by chicken wire to ward off the bunnies. I water. I fertilize. I pray to the garden gods. Recently, I found a half-eaten, un-ripe tomato casually discarded outside the wire fencing. A few nibbles and the evildoer simply chucked the surely sour fruit to the side. It will be back. I cannot stop the squirrels from climbing the fence and claiming my fruits and vegetables as their own. Hopefully my plants will produce more than those little soul suckers can ingest. Deep breaths, radical acceptance.
My now-adult niece lives nearby and is raising two tweenagers. She recently lamented that she is no longer in control of how the oldest of her daughters spends her social time. I remember that transition, when carefully orchestrated playdates that worked for your schedule became a plan made by your children by text with no thought to your convenience at all. You simply became their driver, and heaven forbid if you made an embarrassing joke, or dared to play your own choice of music in front of their friends. You can’t control the passage of time hurling your children forward to tweenager, teenager, young adult.
There’s so much out of our control — the past, the future, a heck of a lot in the present. It’s enough to drive you crazy. Not mishegas-crazy, anxious-crazy. So, I’m doubling down on taking the deep breaths and acceptance route. That route won’t get me into Boston any faster, or plaster my weather app with sun emojis. But it will feel better, just like it does when every cabinet in my kitchen is firmly closed.