To be present, but not tense

Do you ever wonder how much happier you would be if you knew you could not control anything? Because you really can’t. Maybe you can have an influence, but you don’t get to make the final decision.

I almost lost my mind the other morning all because I was trying to control too much. Isn’t that ironic?

It was after an accidental homicide that one of Toni Morrison’s characters realized she could not count on herself any more than she could count on anyone else. My crimes, thankfully, were smaller. I misspelled a name. Forgot to pay a bill. Let the cat drink from the toilet. Let my daughter paint her fingernails when I was not looking.

But she sucks her thumb.

I have told her that she must not paint the nails on her thumbs if she is going to insist on sucking them. She is ingesting poison. It is all my fault.

What could I have done differently to prevent these ordinary tragedies that besieged me on a day when the computer wasn’t working and all the toilets were dirty and everyone in my family had just one clean pair of pants left for the week?

I could close the toilet lids. I could throw away all of the nail polish, mine and hers. I could pay all the bills the minute they come in the mail, or at least open them instead of stashing them in a pile.

I should sit down and light a candle and say a prayer that I am not in charge. I hope I am not in charge. Please, God, don’t let me be in charge. The dirt in the toilets is not all mine. The clothes on the floor are not about me.

But what I do matters, right? It does. I have to stay on the right side of apathy and ambivalence. It’s like walking a straight line.

When will the day come that a child falls down the stairs and it isn’t my fault? That he forgets to zip his jacket and it’s OK?

Eckhart Tolle writes about transcending the ego, and I don’t get it. I’m human, right? If I don’t have an ego, then I don’t care for right or wrong because I’ve been both and I am both all at once. Then I don’t care about the size of my footprint because it’s not mine. It’s everyone’s.

Your children are not your children, says the philosopher. No, but when my children cross a man on his way into the drugstore, it’s my gaze he searches for.


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