I had an epiphany a couple of weeks ago. I was in Kroger picking up a couple of things on a Sunday afternoon. As much as I hate to admit it. I’m a three-time a week grocery girl. I subscribed to a fab site for meal planning, but I found out that it doesn’t include the “from our site to your table in an hour” guarantee. Sheesh! So, I’m walking down the baking aisle and I see a bag of jumbo marshmallows on the very bottom shelf. The cargo bin in the back of my brain fired a message up to the cockpit reminding me of a red piece of paper on the fridge. That red slip was a reminder that I’d signed up to send marshmallows to my daughter’s class on Friday for a chocolate party. It also guaranteed that I was not expected to volunteer. I have no shame.
I’ve been known to see what I need on a shelf fully aware that I need it and walk right on by. After all, it’s highly likely that I’ll be in another store carrying everything from matchbox cars to marshmallows again, the next day. And truth be told, even though it makes for complete chaos, I’ve grown to love living on the edge. I feel in control when I’m spinning 12 plates and I can successfully keep them in the air. I have, however, been praying about making changes that will slow life down. So when I got the rapid-fire message that in five days I’d need marshmallows and then actually put a couple of those bags in my cart, in my mind I tipped my wing and did a Maverick fly-by.
I’ve spent the majority of my life in survival mode and by that I mean getting through the next hour so I can get to the next day so I can make it through the week and looking around every corner and under each rug for the next calamity ranging from missing poster board at midnight or an AWOL piping bag at dawn to emergency surgeries, job losses, and the occasional midlife career change requiring a second bachelors degree. My ability to keep 12 plates spinning has been perfected to a point slightly north of normal.
I have the capacity for planning two weeks ahead. In my mind, it looks like a rectangle filled with enough boxes for fourteen days, it’s not just a calendar, it’s kind of like a two-way street. The first box is Monday followed by a straight row of boxes through Friday. On friday at midnight, there’s a sharp left turn into the two weekend boxes and another sharp left will take me to the 2nd Monday morning and the sequence is repeated through the following Sunday night. I’m sure that it sounds downright bizarre, but please just smile, nod politely, and say you understand.
A good friend of mine is an engineer and she designed a mockup of my calendar. It captures my two-week two-lane highway, and I love it! It lays out perfectly how the days work in my head, the superheros below represent me (of course they do). And if it’s not in that two-week time period? I can’t plan for it, I can’t buy for it, and I certainly can’t create for it. I can hardly even talk about it. I frequently say call me on Monday or txt me on Friday, because if it’s too early in the week, sometimes I only have a clear view one side of the highway. Putting a birthday party on the calendar and sending out invitations makes me hyperventilate. It’s a Birth-Day – the very definition of a specific day! But if it’s not in the two lanes, the flares just don’t catch my attention.
I knew something had to change the day I was walking with a friend and she asked me on a Wednesday what I was doing for my son’s milestone birthday coming up. I told her it wasn’t in my scope yet. His 13th birthday was the following Monday! I honestly thought I had two weeks because I hadn’t rounded the corner of the weekend and somewhere I lost an entire week.
It was at that point that I realized my little two-week life plan was beginning to implode. The truth is, it didn’t matter how much I knew my mind calendar needed an overhaul, I simply didn’t have the capacity for it. What I didn’t realize then, was that giving up my chaotic life was a matter of giving up control. If you’re having a hard time conceptualizing chaos being a form of control, just think Hoarders. I thrive on the manic madness and feel like I’ve won when I pull it all together with seconds to spare.
I have a two-year concept that’s very similar. I’m currently standing in May with June straight in front of me and I’ll continue moving forward until the last week of December when I’ll make a sharp turn left. I’ll stay in my Christmas “weekend” until after the first week of January and then make another sharp left and continue straight through the year. I can plan on major events within that two-year period, but only generally speaking with no specifics, and I absolutely cannot plan for those events.
Ok, you’ve been very generous to spend your time listening to my dumb ramblings on how I see time, and shortly, I’m going ot tell you why my little marshmallow epiphany is making headlines in my life and what it could possibly have to do with you.
At one point in the land before time, I thought myself to be a planner. In my thirties I told my friends that I used to be a planner. The funny thing is, until now, I believed it to be true. Also right this very minute, I am writing like a fool and my daughter’s bus will be here in exactly 4 minutes. I can look back now and see that the plate spinning started long before I had any idea what a crisis actually was. It’s become a habit, the way I live my life an addiction of sorts to controlled chaos.
When I picked up that puffy bag of marshmallows, it was like a room addition opened up in my brain. I’ve been beating my head up against a brick wall for years and all of the sudden, in place of my brick wall there was a pretty sign on a lovely door. The room was called Advanced Planning. It welcomed me inside and was both decorated and functional. It was stocked with my favorite Bic Atlantis pens and colorful sharpies and coordinated sticky notes and beautiful file folders and if you think I’m kidding one little bit, I have tears in my eyes right now threatening to splash gratitude all over this keyboard.
The absence of the Advanced Planning room is one of the many reasons that I didn’t use my degree in education. Lessons plans were kind of a big deal and I just couldn’t kick my creativity in gear months in advance. At two a.m. on the morning of a deadline, I’m like the guy on the A Team, ” I love it when a plan comes together.” I get some sort of sick high from the ability to pull something together out of absolutely nothing in 2 hours flat.
But I’m learning to dream about the future and dreaming dictates a certain amount of detail. My dotted line dreams are turning into full-color motion pictures. I feel excited anticipation as I watch those dreams take shape. It’s definitely not a familiar feeling and it’s requiring that I give my twisted routines an overhaul of sorts.
The move from survival into eager anticipation is more than a shift in thinking, it’s a shift in living. For the first time that I can remember, I’m not drowning at the bottom of my half-full glass, I’ve caught a glimpse of the blue sky on my trip to the top and I think I can hear the trickle of water beginning to fill the glass. But on my way to the top? I’m still fighting through the scrambling.
I heard a man say one time that anxiety can be described as scrambling. Have you felt it? It’s that tiny twinge. That sick feeling that roams around your head and then travels to your heart and on down to your stomach looking for a place to land. It’s browses the categories of life in a hot second looking for big red exclamation points. Once the category has been declared a peace zone, the scrambling roams to see if there’s some kind of battle in the next file.
If I slowed down my scrambling it would sound like this “Ok, dinners over and the kids are all with friends, I know there was something I was supposed to be worried about right now, but I can’t remember what it is…hmmm, yep the bills are paid, not that…what about that little conflict last week, does that need more attention….nope, I handled that one….there has to be some plight that needs my immediate attention, what is it….I’m forgetting something. There’s something very important to worry about and I can’t put my finger on it. ” It’s the voice that narrates for the evil one, our enemy. The bible says that he roams to and fro over all the earth looking for someone to afflict.
Scrambling is the enemy’s dinner bell.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
I’m finding that I have no fires to put out. My children are dealing with the usual toddler to teen challenges with relative ease and I’m feeling more engaged in my life than ever before. The sound of the peace is sometimes deafening. Peace is something I don’t know how to do, so I’m in the process of changing the way I file information and doing a lot of deep breathing. Because the bible also says that there’s a peace that passes all human understanding.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
I’m slowing, wiping undefined tears and wondering if their called relief. I’m preparing a trip that’s a month away and learning to use the list app on my phone.
Maybe you don’t have this neurotic issue with time and planning like I do. Maybe you march through your to-do list like the energizer bunny knocking down color coded sequential dominos. But I’m wondering, if you slow a bit? And you breathed in some reflection? If you might recognize some scrambling in your own life. Your files might be labeled conflict, vacation home, promotion, pregnancy, retirement, college, image, church activity, marriage or career.
No matter the label, the scrambling is about feeling out of control. Whether our drug of choice is keeping 12 plates in the air accompanied by the pride of mastering the madness or having all 12 plates perfectly set for a formal dinner while the string quartet plays on the patio, it’s all labeled control. Maybe your control looks like chaos or maybe it looks like complete calm. No matter, the truth is we’re all fighting a battle for absolute control of our own lives and the bible says that in order to truly win, we must lose. In order to fully live our lives, we must give them up.
Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. Luke 17:33
If you look for the brand of control that’s consuming your life, and you find it?
Stop the scrambling. Breathe deeply .
Look for opportunities to let the peace of God guard your heart and your mind.
Exhale a prayer handing over the control.
If that’s too much, exhale a prayer to want to hand it over.
And by all means, buy the marshmallows!!