We have a rule in our family. If you get a song stuck in your head, you are NOT allowed, under ANY circumstances, to share that song with anyone else in the family. Because, of course, that will cause said song to become stuck in said other family members’ head. Of all the rules we’ve had, tried or tossed, this one has been a keeper. Until now. Because I’m going to break that rule, not with my family, but with all of you. Consider yourself warned . . . the song that keeps coming back into my head is “Let It Go” from the hit movie “Frozen” (your choice of the version, Idina Menzel or Demi Lovato. Makes no difference to me).
Why? Because it’s become somewhat of a theme song, an anthem for me, to keep me on track (I know, it sounds contradictory to think that ‘Let It Go’ could steer me in the right direction, but bear with me).
Most of my life I have operated under the assumption that being in control, in charge of my life, my job, my family, my diet, my budget, my health . . . pretty much everything, meant that I was on course, doing the right thing, being independent, responsible and successful. Once I became a mom, that philosophy really took hold. Busy mom, busy wife, busy employee, of course I had to be in control in order to juggle it all and succeed. In reality, however, the more I worked to be in control, to manage, plan and orchestrate every moment of every day, the more out of control I felt. My kids didn’t know about my grand plans, they didn’t care that we were supposed to be at an appointment at 9:30 am sharp. So they kicked of their boots in the car, had diaper explosions, tantrums, dumped a juice box all over their sister’s head, forgot their favorite blankie . . . all (or so it seemed to me) in an effort to derail my well laid out plans.
Of course, the more things didn’t go according to plan, the more I stressed, the more I worried, the more frustrated and discontented I became and the more I blamed anyone or anything except me. It never occurred to me that my rigid, structured plans might be at least a part of the problem.
With this sort of philosophy, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize just how derailed my life became when first one and then another of my children started showing signs of mental illness. If I couldn’t keep things on track before, I was NO match for the unpredictability and chaos that comes with unstable moods in a young, developing mind and body.
My biggest problem wasn’t the illness – it was my lack of understanding, my lack of insight, my lack of ACCEPTANCE that I was not in charge. My second biggest problem was that I was modelling behaviors and attitudes that screamed loud and clear to my children that at all costs, one must fight to be in charge, to stay in charge, to be on top of everything. Control (ideally by Mom) was essential.
Imagine that. What a message to send to a young child (or a spouse or friend). “Being out of control is bad. Not fighting back to regain control is bad. When all else fails, Mom will take control and fix everything or die trying”.
Hindsight is 20/20, no doubt about that. Looking back I can see just how things played out because of my beliefs and actions. There are certainly a few things I’d do differently if I could. But part of that 20/20 hindsight is recognizing that what I’ve learned is a process, and neither I nor my kids would have grasped the wisdom of letting go if we’d not lived through our individual and collective experiences, mistakes and successes.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to blog more about the concept of letting go in different ways and how life has become more balanced, more stable, more enjoyable and more serene. It’s sort of like when you are first learning to swim and are told to lie on your back and float. Every muscle in your body is fighting to keep from (perceived) drowning. You thrash around slowly at first, then more wildly with each sensation that you are sinking. Finally, with a great deal of prompting and reassurance from your instructor, you relax, tip your head back a little, let your arms and legs go limp, and . . . miraculously . . . you float.
This isn’t a quick fix or a sure fire guarantee for world peace, lasting tranquility or the solution to all of your problems. However, as I will share through some of the most difficult times of my life, less control and more faith (trust in the unknown) has led to an easier journey and I’m pretty sure better outcomes.
Letting go doesn’t mean complacency. It doesn’t mean sloth or abdication of responsibilities. It just means slowing down, taking in the world around you, sensing the natural order of life, and trusting that it’s not ALL on your shoulders; it’s not ALL up to you.
For some additional insight into the song ‘Letting Go” read the following article about the inspiration of the songwriters: Click here
Nanci Schiman is a licensed social worker with a Master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has over 12 years’ professional experience in child and adolescent mental health, family support, advocacy, writing, public speaking and collaborating with local and national mental health organizations. On a personal level Nanci has three daughters ages 17, 19 and 21. The oldest and youngest were diagnosed with mood disorders at ages 9 and 10 respectively.