Turns out, this is true most of all when it comes to the people I love.
My span of ACTUAL control goes about as far as what I am eating for breakfast... and even then I have to wonder what is really in the Fruity Pebbles that I am annihilating. Does anyone know?
I can make a week's worth of healthy dinners and leave them ready to heat and destroy for my kids and come home to find everything untouched and a case of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese missing from the pantry. (OK, I can't pretend they didn't learn something from me.) But the harder I try, the less control I have. Whether it's making rules and setting curfews and measuring skirt hemlines, or trying to track down 20 year old who's been missing for a week in the Himalayas (don't worry, she didn't die) - the more effort expended, the result just seems to be heightened anxiety on my part and teenage girls dressed like hookers.
I can't stop my adult children from making adult decisions any more than my parents could have stopped me at 23 years old from moving into a straw building with dirt floors and giving birth, unsupervised, to a baby in early January. I know it's the decisions like this that form us into the Real People we will become, ones who know better than dirt floors and arranged marriages and not telling your mother where you are in Nepal for a week. But getting through all of those life choices and the aftermath thereof is way more brutal from the outside looking in than it is as a 23 year old who is making her own damn poor choices.
Worst of all, I cannot fix the broken hearts that I would have fought so hard to avoid. But the fight is always against the windmills of my own experience that have NOTHING whatsover to do with the heartaches that my children will face. I can shape their growing up experience to make sure the results are absolutely different than my own and they will still wreck their own hearts in some magical way that I never thought of.
It leaves me standing on the sidelines with my arms cut off at the shoulders so I can't even cheer effectively. Helpless. Just watching. Unable to close my eyes or look away as they tackle life without the appropriate protective equipment. This, my friends, is why wine was invented. All those middle eastern mothers back-in-the-day finding a way to keep their grapes from molding as they watched their 11-year-old-daughters marry the rich uncles of their husbands. (See, it can always be worse.)
Even the most powerful men and women in the world haven't figured out a way to cure heartache or depression or to protect their loved ones from it - in fact if anything, they've probably propagated more of it than poor simpletons like me - at least I'd like to think so.
I don't like not having answers and not having control and not having solutions and fixes for the things that could hurt my people. I don't like feeling like an accessory to their heartache because of things I didn't warn them about or couldn't prevent from happening. But that's the cost of loving people, I guess. Feeling their pain right along with them and not being able to do a damn thing about it.
Except listen. Or hold a hand. Or just be, quietly, here. So that when they come back from the Himalayas and the dirt-floor-huts and the happily-never-after, they aren't alone. And we can all go tackle our windmills together.