Surprise! You’re Growing.

Sometimes growth surprises you. I have always been kind of a fan of control. (This is a nice way of saying control freak, but let’s not use that term, ok?) I like things the way I like them, and I usually don’t mind just doing those things myself if it means they’ll meet my satisfaction when they’re done. I like to think I’m a pretty smart person who is forward-thinking and able to plan successfully for whatever may come. When things would go awry, however, I hated it. Sometimes I’d just seethe inside. Sometimes I’d flip out. When you’re almost 50, you get to know these kinds of things about yourself. The people around you get to know these things about yourself too. Over the past week or so, several things have not been going according to plan. Whose plan you ask? Well, mine, of course. (I say that tongue-in-cheek, but it’s true.)

My daughter, who was visiting from college last weekend, has been quite sick. We spent a portion of her Thanksgiving break getting her well. Running to urgent care and the pharmacy wasn’t part of my grand plan (of doing nothing) over the break. She’s also pretty unhappy at her current school and is making plans to transfer – again, not what I thought was going to happen. On Thanksgiving night, our washing machine started beeping weirdly and wouldn’t unlock. Hundreds of (unexpected) dollars later, it’s repaired after I hounded the repairman to get here yesterday. Last night, as I went into my son’s room to pull the shade, I noticed a puddle of water on his windowsill. It appears we now have a leak in our roof that’s going to need to be fixed as well. All of this right before Christmas.

These things would normally be sending me over the edge. But what I noticed yesterday is that, while they’re all irritating (and expensive!), I am oddly calm about everything. I have expressed some frustration externally, and I am feeling it internally, but generally speaking, I don’t feel as nutso inside as I normally would when these kinds of things happened in the past. It’s different enough that I noticed it, so I know it’s legit.

This is growth. This is having had enough drama, trauma, and craziness in my life to recognize what’s really a crisis and what isn’t. This is having the maturity to look at the challenges as they come and solve them rather than fret about them. This is knowing that I can handle them without drinking or flipping out or curling up into a ball to hide from them.

Maybe this all sounds silly to you because you’ve always been able to handle challenges in this way. If you have, count yourself lucky. I envy you because it took me half a century to get here. I had to go through some serious upheaval to gain this perspective, and I wouldn’t wish that kind of upheaval on anybody.

It’s nice to feel – really feel – that I have grown. My coping skills are better, my perspective is clearer, and my inner world is calmer. I’m still who I’ve always been. I still like to have a plan, and I still try to control what I can. That probably won’t ever change. I may still seethe or flip out every now and then. But I know the next 50 years hold even more opportunities for growth. I will embrace each one as it comes – and be as surprised as ever by what it teaches me.

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