I’ve told people I’m a recovering control freak. As a 5-year old kindergartener, the pretend house in the corner of the classroom was my favorite, and come clean-up time, I’d stack all the plates, gather the cutlery, straighten the furniture…and often RE-folded all the kitchen towels and baby doll clothes that my classmates had already folded. The desire to make sure things were exactly how I wanted them to be, manifested itself at a young age for me, and only magnified as I got older.
It was less about achieving perfection, and more about doing what I considered right, what I thought should happen, what was best for everyone. If I could control the circumstances of a situation, I did. While there's no harm in being prepared and organized, there's a danger in thinking I'm in control of everything; because when the uncontrollable happens, I immediately blame myself.
I turned 40 this year – unmarried, no children. While the modern world tells me this is acceptable, it’s not the future I envisioned, nor the future I prepared for. How could this be best for everyone, when I don't get to fall in love, and my parents don't get grandchildren? I spent countless hours before this milestone birthday, creating a litany of reasons why I’m still single; during my commute to the office, during a date I know isn’t going to lead anywhere, during mass, in the middle of weekend retreats – hours and hours telling God all the ways He made me so unlovable.
How could you make me overweight? How could you make me so short? Why can’t I be smarter? Wittier? Wealthier? Just better than what you’ve made?
What I thought were daily prayers, were selfish lamentations. I was neither speaking nor listening to God – I was whining and complaining, not to mention expressing that which I always say is my biggest pet peeve – ingratitude. I wasn’t a recovering control freak. I wasn’t trying to recover at all. By blaming myself because my life wasn’t what I dreamed of or prepared for, I was blaming God, who made all of us, even me, in His own loving and merciful image and likeness.
On my 40th birthday, the gospel read, “Which Jesus knowing, sayeth to them: Why do you reason, because you have no bread? Do you not yet know nor understand? Have you still your heart blinded?” (Mark 8:17). I held so tightly to a specific vision of love that I didn't even trust God to help me identify it, to help me wait for it, to remind me that it surrounded me. I am not, as I thought for a long time, unlovable.
Each day I ask God to help me find peace for the parts of my life over which I have no control, and each day I welcome peace in many forms; manifestations that had always been there, but whose existence I questioned or chose not to see because it didn’t look like what I expected. When I truly opened my heart and surrendered it to God, I also opened my eyes.