Monday, August 27, 2012

When A + B Does Not = C

The traffic. The lines. The commercials. All of these are indicators that school time is here. Personally, I have two children in elementary school, and they are still at the age where this is exciting and fun. The juggernaut known as “back to school” took off and we all began counting down somewhere around the beginning of August.

Ever since mine started school, I have taken a couple of days off before it starts, both to spend time with them and to be sure that they are ready and prepared. This includes school supply and uniform shopping, which are obviously necessities, but my own neuroses also make it include cleaning out closets, purchasing absurd amounts of groceries and cleaning my house like my life depends on it.

While recently in the throes of this mad prepping, it occurred to me that what I was doing was trying to exercise some kind of control over the future. Like if my house was organized and clean, and if I have every lunch food available ready to go in the fridge and if there was not a dirty sock anywhere to be had and if I cleaned off my desk and made all my put off phone calls and appointments and spent quality time with the children and made delicious meals and and and…and what? What would all of this accomplish?

By no means am I downplaying how much difference a bit of organization makes to keeping the school routine somewhat pleasant. It’s fabulous to be able to make lunch in five minutes or less because all the veggies are chopped and all the snacks at hand. But none of this really has much outcome on the desired result, which is a successful school year. Last fall, when complaining to a friend of mine how much time and attention to detail the supply list purchasing took, she just shrugged and said, “Meh. I just go to Publix and buy whatever school supplies are on sale.” I almost fainted.

My hyper-organizing has been revealed as simply my way of trying to exercise control over the future, which, because of many variables, is uncertain. It’s a form of self-soothing, because I’m anxious about the children’s time in school. We’ve been through the wringer with my son vs. school and my mania has gotten worse every year, so when I do some looking back over it, the correlation is glaring. This year, though, I caught myself and gave it some thought, which drew me to the above conclusion about control. I want it all to make sense. I want to be the boss of it. All of it.

I do think that this is not a singular phenomenon though. The saying about the best laid plans is totally true but as people, I think we try to make sense of nonsensical things by trying to plan for and around them. You could take this theory and apply it to so many things, really. If I live a healthy life and exercise regularly, I will live a long and healthy life. If I wear a seatbelt and drive at ten and two, I’ll be safe in my car. If I do everything I can to insure the success of my children, they will turn out to be happy, fulfilled and generous members of society. Et cetera.

The fact is that there are no guarantees in this life, and as easy as it is to understand this cognitively, I think it’s a lot less easy to live it. The Universe does not seem to take kindly to our attempts at bossing it around and I am convinced that he/she/it ROTFLMAOs at our feeble efforts to do so. I don’t know why life is so capricious and unfathomable sometimes but it is. But I do think that the eternal desire to understand and conquer our destiny is what keeps us moving ahead, learning, growing and reaching out to each other. The challenge of it makes us better, more motivated, and perpetually striving for greatness. Maybe this is what the universe really wants after all, for us to push back and to try. Always. And sometimes, we’ll be rewarded and school will start without a hitch.

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