How To Lose Control Without Losing Your Mind
By Second Floor Flat on July 15, 2014
My sister had a baby a few weeks ago. Her name is Eleanor Elise, and I'm in love.
As a new parent, like any and all, I'd say one of the biggest things my sister is struggling with is that her life is now…different. Different in a beautiful, positive way, but she's struggling to cope with the lack of the structure of a full-time job and an active social life – not to mention adequate rest.
We spoke about it the other day – just before she jumped off the phone to clean while the baby was sleeping – and said she was struggling to maintain some sense of control. (There's the word.)
I suggested she make lists to help her feel more organized, and she assured me that she was doing just that as well as keeping a planner on the kitchen table so she could plan anything she could, since babies don't allow you to plan much.
Control. Learning how to give up control. Learning that you can't plan everything. It's awful and painful, isn't it?
As a modern lady, what with my working life and personal life, I absolutely struggle with control "issues" – and I know I'm not alone in this.
If we're lucky, work is something we can more or less control. But when it comes to personal life, that's usually when shit hits the fan. When people and therefore emotions come into play, our ability to control everything is compromised.
I come from a line of planners and by golly, we are proud of it. Actually, I'm sitting here now typing this next to not one but two notebooks full of lists. I'm also feeling super smug about the fact that I'm the first one up in my house, getting shit done.
But what I'm learning is that while it's always good to organize, and it's great to plan, having control of your life and what happens in it is not something that you can always, well, control.
I started to see all of this first-hand when I moved to London two years ago. Prior to that, I'd been living with one of my best friends in Brooklyn for a few years.
Then, I got married, and moved into a flat with two dudes in another country (one of them was my husband – I'm not completely insane), and experienced the rainiest, chilliest summer I've ever seen.
In hindsight, I spent the first few months – if I'm honest – completely panicking. Dusting everything in site, rearranging my husband's (now our), bedroom, checking for added sugar content on labels, literally taking everything off of his walls and re-arranging it into collages by color palette.
And why did I do this? Aside from my background in design and general obsession with all things visual, I needed things to be in an order that I recognized.
I'd (willingly and excitingly) left my job and the city I loved to live with the person I love in a country I was excited to try out, but everything was different and there was nothing I could do about it.
In the world of foreign-born spouses, expat experiences and visas, I've learned that you can't always be in control. And if living in another country isn't a lesson in giving up control, then I don't know what it is.
For now, my sister and I are both coping with our situations. She's learning that being a brand new mother means that your child is in control, and I'm learning the patience needed to deal with the slew of paperwork that's required when you live abroad.
It's a growing experience for both of us, and while I can't pretend that we'll come out less controlling on the other side, I know that we are both growing from our experiences and learning more patience.
If nothing else, I guess at the end of the day we can always compare lists.
Photos by D Watterson III and me