“I turn grass into wool”, said the sheep. “What is your superpower?” Gail Boenning asked this question in a recent 3musesmerge post. What a glorious question I thought. Her writing delights me and at the same time is educational and thought-provoking. It seems to be human nature to list the things we feel we are not good at. The “can’t do” list rolls from the tongue with ease. Telling others what we are good at is often difficult. I know for sure we all have at least one superpower, and I am willing to bet many more.
If I was asked this question twenty-two years ago, I might have answered that my ability to manage and control things was my superpower. Oh, the wisdom that comes from age and raising a daughter with severe developmental disabilities. What Emily taught me is control is just an illusion. There are very few things we can control. We cannot predict our circumstances, but we can choose how we react and respond.
Each parenting strategy I planned to use changed as Emily missed each milestone. What worked for other children did not work with her. All the books and manuals did not apply. The stories I had been told about parenting and raising children were useless. Throw all the What to Expect books out the window. Once these expectations were shattered and my life could no longer be compartmentalized and managed in a grid resembling a waffle, I developed new skills. My life was a big, messy bowl of spaghetti that didn’t fit in the waffle iron. I began to learn to adapt to the reality of my daily life and let go of the expectations.
Over the years, things began to slowly change. I learned to let go of the illusion of control one situation at a time. Emily didn’t sleep through the night for years. It wasn’t until she began taking medications to aid in sleep that she (and I) slept through the night. Even with medication, a restful night’s sleep was never guaranteed. She is now in her twenties, and late-night shenanigans are still typical. Sleep deprivation is what first initiated my decision to release expectations. I gave up the expectation of sleeping through the night. I decided to start preparing as much as possible for the next day the night before. I did not depend on my ability to get everything ready in the morning, knowing I may be tired and less focused. I began to make a plan for the following day. I left white space on my calendar with nothing planned for things that might come up or for a power nap if required.
Planning became a gift I gave myself each day. The more I planned and left the room to pivot, the smoother my days seemed to go. I was able to accomplish more and left space for the unexpected. My plans were an outline for my day, and if something changed, I could adapt. As I practiced flexibility, I became better at it. I built on the practice and figured out ways to add things to my schedule that bring me joy, calm, and comfort. In addition to work tasks, caregiving, and daily chores, I began scheduling self-care. I would include a 5-minute meditation, a 20-minute power nap, sending a card to a friend, time for a walk, reading a book, and anything else I thought would bring me joy or rest.
Each time I practiced flexibility and releasing control, the more energy, time, and peace I experienced. I achieved more and didn’t let obstacles be a reason to conclude the day was shot to hell and give up. I found peace in accepting what each day would bring. I learned to pivot. I learned to adapt. A friend recently told me this is the process of beginning to flow like water. Each day is a river. Some days are calm and smooth. I am floating down the river in an inner tube sipping a cold beverage without spillage. On other days I am launched into a class 5 (and sometimes 6) rapid. My raft is being tossed about, and I am barely holding on. I can handle either because I have become a master at pivoting and adapting. These are just two of my superpowers. As I learn and grow, I will certainly develop and discover more.