My Mission Impossible? Control

Don't Gen. Al Haig and I wish

My Mission Impossible? Control

Each morning I swear I won’t. Yet every morning, I begin a new round of my personal Mission Impossible. My impossible mission? Get control of my house AND my life.

Each morning I swear I won’t. Yet, first thing each day I make the bed and fluff up the “just for show” pillows. I maniacally wipe down the counters, speed-spritz the fridge to eliminate fingerprints and Windex with a fury the glass dining room table.

Each mid-morning, I swear I won’t repeat the kitchen counter wipe-down and that I will ignore the fact that the kitchen rugs are askew.

Yet, by 2 p.m., I’m on my third compulsive sweep of the kitchen, the hall, the bathrooms, the trashcans. By 3 p.m., although the day is young, I am feeling old.

In between the wiping, the fluffing, the Windex-ing, the sweeping, I somehow – miraculously – do work. I research and write columns and blogs, and respond to editors and readers.

General Al Haig and Me

BUT still I compulsively clean and tidy up the house. I cannot help it. It’s all part of my impossible mission to get control of the house.

In this, I’m just like former Secretary of State Alexander Haig except he was focused on a bigger house – the White House!

As you may recall, in the minutes after the assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan, Haig famously and unfortunately declared:

“I am in control here at the White House.”

Of course, Haig, a highly-decorated military leader, was incorrect about the chain of command in a constitutional crisis, but, still, I understand the impulse.

Each day, I mercilessly fluff up the designer living pillows, wipe those show-every-crumb white kitchen counters, and arrange cut flowers from my garden.

I do these things because I have so little real power. I cannot control global events. Nor can I control my adult kids’ decisions and keep them safe. Heaven knows I cannot even control my weight or the fact that I am aging way faster – and much less attractively – than I imagined possible.

I figure that if my home tidy and perfect, it will serve as a safe haven for family and friends. It will provide shelter from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” life throws at us.

So, like Al Haig, I shake my fist and shout, “I am in control here.”

Back in the Day

When I was young, I didn’t worry about being “in control.” I took things as they came. I had my pick of colleges. My pick of boyfriends. My pick of jobs. I even was able to control my weight! Life was good.

Only with parenting did life become a challenge. Only with parenting did “control” fly out the window. Jobs were selected based on the ability to manage family schedules. Meanwhile, asthma attacks, allergies, colds, and the flu didn’t conform to schedules. And as for bedtimes and naptimes, forget about schedules all together! Yes, life, as they say, got real. As for being in control, well, that was a dream long gone.

Then, when my kids became teenagers, I truly understood how little control I had. Factor in coping with the problems of aging parents and the sadness of their passing and that youthful sense of control was completely shattered.

My response to all this? Not carpe diem, but carpe vacuum and dust rag!

Scrub. Rinse. Repeat

Polishing silverware is one of my mission impossible never-ending tasks. Tarnish, like old age, gray hair, and arthritis cannot be avoided. So, each month, I pull out the Rubbermaid gloves and the Haggarty silver polish. Then I lovingly curse the generous relatives who bequeathed me a ten-piece silver tea set and sterling silver flatware, and scrub, scrub, scrub away the black smudges.

Likewise, each month, I sit shivering in a nylon smock at the “beauty” parlor, smeared in hair dye, waiting for that monthly miracle of shiny dark hair to set in.

Mission Impossible: Control. Now Mission Possible!

Illness. Death. Dust. Worry. Overeating. Tarnish on the silver. Those things I cannot control.

But there is something else I can control. My perspective. I can choose how I look at life. And I choose laughter over sadness – even if oftentimes the one I’m laughing at is me!

So, excuse me, please. I’ve got show pillows to punch and some cookies to munch! And let’s all, muddle on through middle age with delight!

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