Every morning, well before breakfast time, I make all of the beds in my house. It’s a ritual of pulling and tucking sheets, folding blankets just so, and placing the pillows in perfect form. The best part? If I follow the same steps, it comes out the same way every single time. There is nothing unpredictable about making the bed, and it feels great.
It’s not just bed making that puts me at peace. I also look forward to dentist appointments because I know I’ll get a good report. I floss everyday, I brush, and I don’t eat candy. My dentist told me at my last appointment I was peridontically perfect, and I beamed. My dental hygiene might be the only thing about my body that is under my control.
I can’t forget my lego rainbow. After seeing a friend’s beautiful lego table, I started to organize and reorganize legos by color. Sure, my kids mix them up, but I am in total control of resorting them after bedtime. (For the record they play with them much more and have an easier time finding pieces when they are color-matched.)
Making the bed, cleaning up legos, acing dentist visits satisfy my need for some sense of control. When I was diagnosed with MS, and again when I had kids, I realized I have very little control over things in my life. MS is an extremely unpredictable disease. Babies and children are unpredictable, too. (At least mine. Just when I think I know what they are going to do, one of them goes off-script.)
When my plane hits turbulent air, my kids propels a bowl of their favorite cereal at my knees, or I wake up to a foot that doesn’t want to walk, I remember that many things are out of my control. I can try to plan, and make adjustments as needed, but sometimes it’s just a crapshoot.
I wish I could be like my mom, and just recognize the times that I never had control to begin with. The Serenity Prayer donned the walls in multiple rooms in my house (set to the backdrop of Melanie Beattie meditation cassettes.) But I’m still struggling to realize that I cannot control everything. A bad flight home from Chicago, directly following a week of overwhelming and often scary tests left me panicking- and reciting that prayer that permeated my youth.
I try to predict when my kids will lose their sh*t (I pack snacks, encourage proper rest, exercise, fresh air, etc.), but then I get blindsided by one of them unexpectedly freaks out over an invisible string in their shoe, a sudden hatred for her favorite food, or the misplaced toy they haven’t touched in years but need immediately. It’s been like that since they were born. I bought my oldest child an organic crib mattress, avoided bumpers, and laid him on his back in the recommended form-fitting sleeper, but still found him not breathing when he was 5 months old. Control? I think not.
I try to manage my MS (I take supplements, eat healthy, meditate, exercise, and partake in Traditional and Complementary medicine), but am caught off guard when I have a lousy walking day. It’s an unpredictable disease, and sometimes it seems to laugh at my efforts to control it in the same tone that my children criticize my dinner offerings.
I don’t think I’m the only person who is seeking some sense of control, despite the stares I received on the plane during that turbulent flight. Others might deny it, but I wholeheartedly believe that many of our efforts are attempts to find and maintain some sort of control. Maybe 20% of the time we can be in control, or at least convince ourselves that we are. But the day may come that I get a cavity (I knew I was eating too much dried mango!), and I think I will be ok.
As I’m wait for the next steps of my stem cell transplant to fall in line (insurance approval, transplant date, more fundraising, and more planning), I feel like a lovesick teenaged waiting by the phone for a call (or a text) from the object of my desire. This time I’m pining over the possibility of a new immune system rather than a head nod from that dreamy sophomore, but the emptiness, anxiousness, and hopefulness feels the same.
I’m still making the bed, organizing the legos, and flossing every night. But whether I’m waiting for the phone call telling me my transplant date, or crossing my fingers that my kids eat their dinner I’m trying to control what I can, and accept what I cannot.