Posted by: drrozkaplan | December 23, 2009

Losing Control

It’s Christmas week.  It snowed 20 inches over the weekend, which makes everything look pretty, but slows down the morning commute.  There are rumors of an ice storm moving in later in the week, but I’m having enough trouble managing my Prius on my half-plowed street, so I’m not ready to think about that yet.

The office is chaotic.  My partner leaves tomorrow for vacation so I will be the only doctor in the practice for a week.  People who have made appointments are cancelling them or forgetting them.  But that is a blessing because there are lots of emergencies and sick visits, and a few confused patients who wander in believing they had appointments when they didn’t.  Run-down college kids home for the winter break are being dragged in by their concerned parents for check-ups and colds and the flu shots they didn’t get at school.  It’s a week when any expectations about work have to be thrown out the window.

Likewise, things at home are a little topsy-turvy.  My son is home from college, and my daughter has a 2-week break from high school.   They and their friends are in and out of the house, up late at night, sleeping during the day. The house is a mess, with all the extra meals and dishes and laundry.  We had a belated Hanukah party with my husband’s sister and her family a couple nights ago, and there is still candle wax on the counter and splattered oil from cooking the potato latkes all over the stove. We started painting a bathroom in anticipation of holiday visitors and still haven’t quite finished, so our third floor is littered with sandpaper and rolls of painter’s tape.  We can’t find the time to get things in order, since my husband and I have to maintain our schedules.  This is not a vacation week for us.

It’s not a bad chaos, though.  Life needs to be shaken up a little now and then.  Things are lively, if nothing else.  We enjoyed each others’ company at our Hanukah gathering.  The kids are having fun.  My son and daughter have decided to take a trip to the mall together on Thursday, which is a big deal- a year ago I’m not sure they would have voluntarily said ‘hello’ to each other.  In the office, we took a long break in the middle of the day today and went out for a holiday lunch.  We all had a good time, and it was nice to be together without the tensions of the workplace.  Sure, it created some disorganization when we got back at 2:30, but it was well worth it.

I spend so much time and energy trying to keep everything ‘under control’ all the time.  Schedules,appointments,  checking off tasks on my to-do list, keeping everything neat and tidy and in its place…  It feels good to let go of all of it once in a while and just let things happen.

I was talking with a patient today who was saying that he was going through an extraordinarily stressful time at work.  He said the stress was generated by the fact that he was used to being able to control everything and that he couldn’t control what was currently going on.  It made me think about the whole issue of control.  Honestly, I think it is just an illusion.  Keeping things neat and tidy and running on schedule is all we can really do to have any control at all, but it’s a completely false sense of security.  I can tell Jane Doe to come in at 10 am, but I have no idea what condition I will find her in or what she will need.  I can keep the house extremely neat and clean and my child might still get sick.  I can check off every task on my to-do list and the day may still turn to chaos because I can’t control what everyone else does.

I don’t mean I’m going to let everything going to go to hell in a handbasket (I love that phrase, don’t you?- I looked it up to find out the origin of it and it’s very obscure-it’s just that handbaskets are small baskets and things can get places quickly in them…).  Anyway, no, I’m not going to stop trying to have some modicum of control over the chaos.  But when it’s not working out, I’m going to try to remind myself that to-do lists and schedules are just tricks we play on ourselves anyway.  And that sometimes it’s okay to just see what happens.

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