In much the same way Aretha Franklin sings R E S P E C T, find out what it means to me, I often belt out my favorite tune, C O N T R O L.(what to do… I know quite well) I want everyone to do what I think is best for them, and I want things to go according to my plan.
I do know what the right thing to do is in most situations. I can predict positive outcomes and steer clear of pitfalls, and as a former Girl Scout, I always hold true to the motto, “Be Prepared.”
Those that love me say, “You have too many rules!” which is the polite way to say, lighten up! But I can help you be all you can be, achieve your potential and excel at anything your heart desires. I know my way will be the right way to make your life smooth and successful. I know what’s best, why won’t you listen to me?
My grown daughters have been the recipients of much of my unsolicited advice, even when I try to sneak it in the backdoor. In the past, I have offered to make out budgets, suggested career paths and long-term goals that could ‘help’ them be successful, and although my intention was to help, I know it felt intrusive. As of late, I am doing much better until recently while riding with my daughter in her car: “Oops, it looks like you’re almost out of gas.”
“You’re right. I’ll get some in the morning. I still have 56 miles.”
“I’d hate for you to run out while you’re on MoPac.”
“I always like to be safe and have a full tank.”
“If you find a filling station, I’d be glad to pay for your gas.”
“Thanks, Mom, I’ll take care of it.”
I knew I should have stopped myself, but still I kept on. I know that a grown woman with a college degree, full-time job, and living on her own can handle filling up the gas tank of a car she owns! But still….what if?
Whenever I start to say, “Have you thought about…?” or suggest a plan of action, I am met with “Yes, Mom. I know.” Which is code for: mind your own business. It has occurred to me lately that I might not know what everyone else should do. Maybe they do know what is best for themselves. Maybe I’m not Assistant Manager of the Universe.
When I am so fixed on what everyone else is doing, I often neglect my own life. When I’m stressing out over someone else’s choices, I wake up at 3:00 a.m. and lay there worrying. What good does it really do? Nada. Nothing. Zilch. Everyone else happily goes about their way and I am tired and worn out from useless fretting. There’s a certain amount of insanity in doing the same thing over and over again, hoping to get a different result. I can worry all I want to, but it will not change anything.
Is my worrying and trying to control things giving the wrong message? Am I telling those I love that I don’t think they are capable of taking care of themselves or worse, am I telling God that I know best?
In my old age, I am finally learning to just let life happen. There have been times when I have been fearful and uncomfortable about letting those I love make choices I don’t think are wise. This anxiety and finagling the situation to follow my plan has sometimes worked out for the worse, and often when I spend too much time catastrophizing about a possible problem in the future, it never happens. I’m Not Assistant Manager of the Universe, nor am I psychic.
Once, one of our girls told Boo and me about a trip she was planning to Mexico. Before she even finished, Boo said, “Are you going to use your sick days for this? You really should save your sick days. You might need them.” Of course, to follow up I asked, “Do you have a passport? You know you have to have a passport to go to Mexico.” Friends, this was a forty- something-year-old daughter who works a full-time job with benefits, pays her bills on time, owns her own car and has children. I’m pretty sure she knows how to navigate her sick days and understands that you have to have a passport to leave the country. But still…what if?
I’m Not Assistant Manager of the Universe.
Trying to be in control of my life and everybody else’s is a huge job, and while I might try to do it, this attitude damages relationships and ruins my health. When I let go of the illusion that I have power over what other people think, do, feel, and say, I live in a more peaceful place. When I step back and allow others to be in charge of their own lives, I am showing them love and respect, the kind Aretha sang about.
As hard as it is to let go, I must. I must do it for myself and for the ones I love the most. I don’t want my tombstone to read, “She’s Finally Minding Her Own Business.” I want it to have a sentiment that portrays the love I gave and received. I want my family to genuinely be sad to see me go, not glad.
And so, I get up every day, striving to follow the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I start fresh to let go and allow others to take care of themselves, giving them the R E S P E C T, they deserve.
I don’t think God has a “Help Needed” sign hanging on the pearly gates, and if I am truthful, I will admit it is hard enough to control my own life, much less someone else’s. After all, the birds sing and flowers grow without any help from me. The world turns and the sun shines without my suggestions and my grown daughters are capable, caring, and wise. Just for today, I will let go and trust that God is totally in control, and gratefully, I Am Not Assistant Manager of the Universe.
Photographs are my own. Flower pictures are from Wildseed Farm near Fredericksburg, Texas.