I’m back, after an eventful and often difficult summer. In contrast to the school year, our summers are typically a bit messy and without structure, a time when bedtime routines fly out the window along with sugar restrictions and timely haircuts.

What all of this means for me, of course, is a feeling of being out of control…out of control in an area – parenting – that is, by definition, about letting go of the need to control. It means I tend to be out of sorts during summers and I’m ill prepared to handle any extra chaos on top of the unstructured days I already have.

But things happened this summer. The movie theater and temple shootings. The need for both my parents to get biopsies done. The sudden death of a staff member. A bike accident that left me with a broken leg.

I’ve always been a planner, disliking the idea of winging life or being caught by any of its unpleasant surprises. I organized the 5-year time line of our move from Japan to the US. I coordinate complex daily schedules of appointments, deadlines, pick ups and drop offs. “This is not the military!” my mother once said to me when I gave her strict bedtime instructions for our 5 month old.

In late June Justin died. Just like that, at 34 years old. We’d gotten together less than 2 weeks earlier and were drinking and laughing and so looking forward to the upcoming work season together. For the rest of the summer I was haunted by his voice and laughs, having a hard time grasping the fact that they would, from now on, exist only inside my head.

Justin’s unexpected death would trigger a transformation (of what kind I still can’t articulate) that would affect the way I deal with my most recent crisis, which is my own accident. Last week I broke my tibia bone – the main bone in our legs – and I will be in a cast until October and won’t be able to walk normally until next year.

I’ve been uncharacteristically positive, thanks to Justin. Despite the fact that at the moment of my accident Max was out of town, I’d forgotten my cell phone, and neither Max nor I were going to be able to pick Fred up from camp until hours past closing, when I hit the ground the clearest thought I had (besides the awareness that my ankle was definitely broken) was the fact that I was completely alert. My head never touched concrete. There were no cars involved. I could see, I could think, I could talk. Everything was gravy no matter how broken. I didn’t cry.

Since the accident I’ve learned effective and ridiculous ways to crawl up and down stairs. I’ve learned (from labor, of course!) to breathe through the agonizing daily pain of the swelling. I patiently allow myself to set aside a full hour each day to get into and out of the shower, savoring the hot water as my reward. I’ve warmed to the sweetness that my injury has brought out in my 8 year old (as well as in my 40-something year old!).  Most importantly, I have accepted the painful truth that I need to stay on the sidelines as a mother for the next six weeks, and I have handed over the reins to my husband. I have so far (mostly) succeeded in closing the door on that part of my brain that is temped to think my life right now sucks.

So I’m doing well, considering. Except once in a while, a feeling similar to the one I had in the weeks following Justin’s death creeps in. It is not frustration or anger or self-pity. It’s the feeling of vulnerability. Yesterday, while putting together a snack and lunch list for the school year – my attempt to plan my way back to “normal” – I suddenly became aware of feeling incredibly small, and I understood and feared that there will always be unseen things I will never have any control over.

Two days after I wrote this post I found out I have to have surgery. This time I cried…(but I’m okay). 

12 thoughts on “Control

  1. What a summer! So much to digest. Unexpected death is so impossible to wrap thoughts around. I’m sorry. So sorry. Then again, remembering to appreciate life is a gift.


    And you’re right, we don’t control much for ourselves. And even less for our kids. But isn’t it nice to pretend sometimes?

    • Thanks, Kate! So good to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing your good thoughts. It is true…out of tragedy or difficult times come gifts in the form of lessons. I know I’ll be a different person after this summer. Hope you have been well. xo

  2. It’s wonderful, wonderful to hear from you. Even with the sad news of your friend and your injury.

    I remember feeling just like you do now, when I had to go on bedrest at 31 wks with my first baby. Our goal was to carry the baby to 36 wks, we made it to 35.

    And even with the month of bedrest, I had to let go.I had so much planned of what I would do while pregnant, and instead I had to stay in bed while my husband did it all.

    I had to let it go.

    Again with the 2nd baby: this time bedrest from 17 wks on, all the way to 35 wks. No one to play with my then 18 mo old first born. I’d watch as baby sitters wouldn’t play with him the way I would. Wouldn’t talk to him while they fixed him lunch the way I would.

    It was the saddest thing.

    I had to let it go.

    I had to let it all go, and realize that that is life: that which happens to us, in those moments, we see what our partners are made of, what we are made of, the beauty of the love that the people in our lives have for us.

    During my 2nd bedrest, My first born would bring me books and say “wead to me, mama? wead to me?”

    Where I saw my limitations, he saw my capabilities.


    • Oh Alexandra, I’m going to requote you: “Your comment is better than my post.” You said it beautifully and perfectly. I struggled to capture the pain of what it feels like to NOT be involved. A woman at the doctor’s office told me to sit back and enjoy being waited on, but I don’t think you can do that, once you’re a mother. You WANT to be out there and holding the family up, not sitting back. And then there’s the guilt. My husband works full time but now he has to take care of everything at home as well. Anyway, we think we need to be in charge, but we learn to trust in our partners and even children and then realize that the show is still running, sometimes perhaps even better.

      You can relate, and this story means a lot to me. Thanks so much for stopping by so quickly. I miss you and will catch up with you soon.

    • Thanks so much Delia, especially for that last line. I hadn’t thought of this as my colleague’s last gift but it really is – I can carry that part of him with me.

  3. Cecilia! It’s good to hear from you! I’ve been checking in on my Google reader, patiently waiting to hear your beautiful words. I’m sorry to hear about your accident and your loss.

    I understand what you’re feeling all too well. Motherhood is a lesson in learning to let go. It’s a lesson in humility and acceptance and “good enough.” Before motherhood, I would call myself a control freak. I liked (and still do like) to be in control because there’s safety and security in being in those places for me. But, I’m learning, that there’s lessons, many lessons, to be learned in being willing to submit to the universe and let go. I think motherhood has made me a better person in that way. It’s healed me in that way. It’s… I could go on and on, but I’ll stop here. 🙂

    I hope you are feeling better. xo.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Jessica! I know, it’s been a long time…I am so bad at this! It’s comforting to know that this resonates with a lot of moms. It would be interesting to trace this need for control and see where the root is…like you say, it must be fear (fear of lack of security). And ironically, now the more I fear the more I have to learn to loosen control…

  4. I’m so sorry about Justin. How terrible! Thinking my life could be over so quickly, so unexpectedly, scares me to, well, almost to death. I hope you can hold onto the sound of his voice and all the ways he inspired you in your mind. That’s hard, too. So, so hard as life goes on around us.

    And the surgery. Yes. I know. Somehow, you will make it through. Somehow, you will find strength you didn’t know you had. There will be tears and curses and pain and loneliness. But you will make it through. And I’m here for you every step of the way (figurative steps for the time being, literal ones in a few months). Big hugs!

  5. You’re the best, Stacia! Knowing you are where you are now gives me no excuses to whine and all the more reason to keep pushing forward. Thanks for all your support, on and off “line”!!

  6. Pingback: Friday Pix: Recommended Reading For The Weekend | RealDelia

  7. Cecelia,

    I know I am coming very late to this post, but wanted to let you know that I too have so many issues relinquishing control. It makes me averse to risks and I certainly get disheveled when my plans are interrupted. As you know the unexpected death of my friend has me trying to ease up and try not to clench my knuckles so tight. It is definitely a process.

    I am thinking of you Cecelia and wish you the very the best with surgery. And you know you are not alone. Many of your words in this post really resonated with me.

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