On Control

The night before Daisy landed in the hospital for her first diagnosis, I was busy. Doing a whole lot of nothing. She was tucked into her bed and I was sucked into the world-wide web. She was resting her little body which was about to come apart at the seams, and I was unaware, suspended in cyberspace scrolling through pages and pages of moisturizers on Sephora.com. Tinted moisturizers, age-defying moisturizers, pore-minimizing, light-refracting, wrinkle-wrangling moisturizers. You know the kind of sucked in, where an hour flies by and you realize you haven’t moved an inch, and you’re still unsure which of those over-priced under-delivering tubes to buy. A complete waste of time, but since my life was fully under control, it seemed a totally acceptable way to spend it.
Eventually I landed on some brand or other, typed in my credit card info, and perhaps putzed around my house for a bit before climbing in my four-poster bed, snuggling under a down comforter. Perfectly safe, perfectly secure. Kid in each room, check. Husband nestled next to me, check. Food in belly, clothes on back, car in driveway, check, check, check.
The story is now history, but as it goes, we ended up in the hospital the next day, then for the scariest subsequent 11 days of our lives. Awaiting the diagnosis in the E.R., the package of makeup was fulfilled in the order fulfillment facility. Praying on knees, grasping an IV pole for strength, the package was sent out on the UPS truck. Waiting with loved ones while a pediatric surgeon painstakingly removed the tumor from my daughter’s abdomen, the package enjoyed a cross country adventure. Countless nurses flew in and out of our room, armed with needles and drugs while countless hands passed my package in and out of trucks and shipping warehouses. Days and nights bled into one another, and finally the traumatizing hospital stay was over. I walked up to my front door, slid the key in the lock, and wearily looked down. The package from Sephora.com had arrived, in all its branded glory.
I kicked it across the room.
That box represented much to me. It represented the hour of my life I wasted shopping that I’ll never get back. It represented the illusion of security and the reality of life’s fragility sneakily hiding in distraction. But mostly, it rudely mocked my naïve idea of control. Without realizing it, I had believed I could basically control my life. You make good choices, you reap the benefits. Cancer was not supposed to happen to Jesus-loving God-fearing people. But there it was, proving me wrong.
But as life has a way of making sure we learn a thing or two, after a time of hating that Sephora box I began to be thankful for it. It taught me something beautiful about control. I can’t control a lot of what happens to me in my lifetime, but I can control how I spend it. I think we can believe the lie of “this is the way it has to be,” and give in to lesser things, but that’s not true. Things we think matter sometimes don’t, and things we think will be around forever aren’t guaranteed. Life is full of things we think we can control, fix, manipulate, but often we can’t.
It’s not just with cancer or tragedy, it’s all day, every day. We get caught up in stuff that’s tertiary, we let it consume us. That Sephora box showed me what I can control.
I can control how much time I spend on tech.
I can control how I speak to my loved ones.
I can control where I direct my focus.
I can control the trap of comparison.
I can control what I look at, what values I let in my heart and home.
I can control how much love I keep to myself, and how much I share.
I can control how much attention I give to what is important.
I can control when to say yes, when to say no.
I can control whose voice I give ear to.
Though it was satisfying to passionately punt that box, the tangible reminder is gold. Because who knows what tomorrow brings? But today we learn to lean in to real life, stop and listen to the sound of laughter. Today we learn to stop our rushing and offer a kind word to the old man in the grocery store, to the preschooler who desperately wants to save a snail’s life in the parking lot. Today we learn to turn off our phones and experience the world in actual color, not merely technicolor, complete with sounds and smells, and pollen and precipitation. Today we learn that life is sitting around waiting, and it won’t live itself. That’s our job.