All The Things I Control

After any major behavior episode at my house has been fully resolved and the children are calm and the issues have been discussed, I need 30 minutes or so to be alone. I used to characterize this time as a period of rest–just half an hour to boost my energy back up. As the tantrums have grown worse and the behaviors more outrageous, I have come to understand this time as recovery and rediscovery. It’s the time I need to remember who I am outside of a crisis, when there is not a child hurting me or hurting himself or hating himself.

These episodes might last only a few minutes or they might be an hour or more, but they often leave me feeling disconnected from myself. Twenty minutes attempting to soothe a child who is reliving his trauma, screaming out his rage, throwing wild punches and kicks can feel like a lifetime. Sometimes afterward I wonder if I’m still the same person. I’ll ice a bite on my arm thinking whose arm is this and sweep up a broken plate wondering whose home is this.

This meditation has come together over time as my path back to myself when I begin to feel lost. Please feel free to adapt and use it. I’ll usually get some Frankincense oil diffusing to help set a meditative mood. I tuck myself into bed, and then I begin my inventory of all the things I can control. Not the universe, nor the weather. Not my city or my kid’s school. I can’t control the teachers, doctors or therapists. I can’t control my foster kids’ family. I can’t control the judge or the attorneys. I can’t control the kids. All these things I can’t control, and what’s left? Just me. I can control only me. I let a feeling of smallness sit for a minute.

But I am smart and kind and mighty. Controlling only myself is not a limit; it’s an invitation. I wiggle my toes and feel my nails scratch the threads on the sheet. I slide my feet left to right, in and out of the pocket of warmth from where they’ve been resting. I flex my calves and feel power and energy there as my muscles bunch almost to the point of cramping. These legs have chased a child through a parking lot and out to the street, just in time to snatch him from in front of a car. I flex my thighs and my lower abs. These muscles create the lap where my kids sit for stories at bed time. They power strollers down sidewalks at the zoo. I stretch and extend one finger at a time, first my left hand then right. These hands have blocked punches and tied shoe laces. I flex and stretch my arms, rolling my shoulders. These arms hold them when they cry. ¬†These shoulders carry diaper bags and hold small bodies up to see over the crowd. I breathe deeply, holding my breath to the point of pain and exhale. This breath fuels my blood, calms me when I’m angry, ¬†gives volume to shouts across the playground. This tongue, these teeth, these lips speak life, sip wine, blow kisses. This nose detects dirty diapers and absorbs the musky, grounding scent of the frankincense. These eyes cry and cry and see too much and see too little.

I think my name, not mom or momma or honey or wifey, but my true name. I visualize things that bring my joy: my dogs, my sister, my husband, my garden, diet coke, books, the lake, the river, the ocean. I visualize things that hurt me: a four year old holding a fistful of hair ripped from my scalp, shocked and sick at himself over his own anger. A two year old screaming through night terrors. This mind has a great capacity for thought and feeling. This mind holds sadness and joy, empathizes and problem solves.

I finish my meditation looking inward, celebrating all that’s in my power. All I control is me. I control all of me.