List Therapy

What do you do when life seems out of control?

Now, when I say out of control, I'm not talking about “our internet is down and I can’t check email” out of control. Nor do I mean, “this traffic is not moving and I’ve really gotta pee” out of control. I definitely agree that these short term situations are certainly annoying and stressful. But, I'm talking about when a situation is so out of your hands that it is difficult to even get your mind around it… think more, “I’ve done EVERYTHING in my human power for years to change this situation and it is NOT budging.” You know that kind of out of control.

I recognize that the right answers for me are:
1) pray
2) surrender
3) eat chocolate
4) accept
5) adapt

Looks easy enough on paper, right? Problem is I'm not really a patient or passive person. Knowing that, go ahead and re-read those “right answers.” You’ll see that they are not quick fixes that I can just work a little harder and accomplish quickly. Those right answers do not come easily, at least not for me. Most days, those right answers are accompanied by growing pains. Meaning, I kick and scream my way through spiritual and emotional growth. There is progression, but it moves slowly. Over time those right steps are becoming a little more a part of who I am and how I behave. (I said a little – please don’t misunderstand –they are A LITTLE more a part of who I am) But really taking those right steps can often leave an aggressive and impatient person like me feeling a bit itchy and unsatisfied in the short run. Blech. Not how I want to feel on a daily basis.

Enter coping mechanisms.

Having been stripped of several unhealthy and inappropriate vices that I used to cope in my previous life, I’ve discovered another much more innocuous and healthy way to trick myself into feeling a temporary semblance of control. I'm a list maker. I have been a list maker all my life and will probably be a list maker until I die. But it’s only recently that I truly grasped the therapeutic advantage that lists provide. Crossing something off of a list is a momentary victory. It makes me feel really good. I silently think, “You may not have the big stuff under control but you dusted the hell out of that living room. Cross ‘er off. Way to go. Now, it’s time to move on to the next thing.”

With a handful of out of control situations permanently hanging out in my life, lately I’ve been a list making fool. Last week I crossed a few items off the “Ultimate To DO” list and even added a few new items to the mix. Still feeling the itch, I created a whole NEW list (of my 50 MUST READ books) to keep me busy. And, you know what? It’s working. Moments of relief are a welcome and necessary thing.

Sure, I know that ultimately these lists just offer a temporary numb from the lack of control. I truly get that the “right answers” listed above are the only way I’ll feel lasting relief from the out of control-ness that I'm experiencing. So, believe me when I say, I'm working on it. (More accurately, I'm letting the Holy Spirit work on me.) But in the mean time, I find a nice manageable list to be a momentary distraction from life’s hard stuff.
I'm curious, how do YOU cope when life is out of control?