The Fine Line Between Taking Action and Surrendering Control
Mr. Frugalwoods and I are officially ready for Babywoods. Frugal Hound less so, but only because she’s a dog and has no idea how much her little hound world is about to be rocked. We humans of the household have been engaged in baby prep for months now and, at exactly two weeks to her due date, I believe we can consider ourselves prepared. Over-prepared perhaps.
But the crucial thing is, we’re only prepared in the ways that are within our control. While our environment is in a state of readiness, the inscrutable world of what we’ll actually do to keep this infant alive, thriving, and happy remains a mystery to us first-time parents.
Controlling Everything I Can
Over the course of these preparatory months, I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have an abiding (Mr. FW might say fanatical) desire to control the logistics, mechanics, and physical surroundings of my life.
I derive immense satisfaction from the fact that Babywoods’ hand-me-down nursery is entirely set-up; her carseat is installed; I’ve cleaned/scoured the house from top to bottom (including the basement in which I dusted all of the mechanicals… much to Mr. FW’s mild horror); and Mr. FW cooked and froze a bunch-o-food in anticipation of exhaustion-riddled mealtimes.
We’ve selected, met, and quizzed her pediatrician; pre-paid the copay for her birth; taken a childbirth prep class; packed our hospital bag (with snacks!); tackled the mountains of paperwork involved in this whole affair; established parental leave plans with our respective workplaces; practiced driving to the hospital; and scheduled family to visit in December.
Plus, we bathed poor Frugal Hound, trimmed her claws, and washed all of her hound bedding (she was distinctly not amused). I’ve also continued to exercise and eat well throughout my entire pregnancy in an effort to give Babywoods the healthiest, strongest start in life. Still, I know there are things I’ve forgotten, overlooked, or screwed up.
But that’s where our preparation has to stop. There’s nothing more we can do. Yes, I’ll undoubtedly flap around until I go into labor making lists of random (and usually ridiculous) tasks that I’ve decided we simply must accomplish lest we fail as parents. To give you a sense of just how addled my pregnant brain is right now, the list currently includes: wash sliding glass back door and vacuum out Frugalwoods-mobile–neither of which have anything remotely to do with welcoming a child into the world.
Despite this mania, I’ve accepted–or at least Mr. FW has and I’m trying to join him on his zen-like perch–that there’s an absolute limit to how much we can gird ourselves for this monumental life event. At a certain point, we have to surrender to God and say, OK, I recognize I’ve done everything possible and now I must simply wait.
But here’s the thing: I don’t wait well. I’m not a fabulously patient person (major shortcoming of mine) and I don’t twiddle thumbs. It’s very difficult (read: impossible) for me to embrace periods of waiting in my life, but I’ve actually/somehow become rather adept at it over the years. Age and maturity and all that I suppose, or just the realization that nothing terrible has ever happened to me while waiting… yet!
Our long-term goal of financial independence and homesteading falls into the same ‘hurry up and wait’ camp. We’ve controlled what we can–a high savings rate, extensive homestead research, and detailed financial projections–and now, all we’re able to do is… wait. As I discussed on Monday, there’s nothing to gain by endlessly tweaking our finances or otherwise messing with our money. All we can and should do is exercise patient restraint (gah! easier said than done).
Accepting that there’s nothing more I can do and letting go is immensely difficult for me. It’s in my very nature to constantly scan for efficiencies, optimizations, and new opportunities. But I have to allow myself to find contentment in the work I’ve executed. I need to celebrate my successes instead of berating myself for not having vacuumed out the car yet (see, I’m still thinking about it!).
The Now Culture
Our culture is one of immediacy. We’re told that we can have anything we want, fix every last problem, look like a supermodel, and find lifelong gratification instantaneously–through, of course, the old falsehood of spending money.
Marketers and ads tout miraculous weight loss, hair regrowth, and spontaneous success–all to be had for a mere swipe of the credit card. Of course we see the fallacy, but we still fall for it. Who doesn’t want to pay away their problems and solve everything five minutes ago?
The wisdom that stems from not falling victim to this ludicrous consumption-driven trap is nothing short of divine. When we accept life as it truly is–majorly imperfect and with incremental steps towards our deepest-held dreams–we’re destined for success. For example, when we see the light at the end of six-figures of debt, as so many of you have, or when we conceptualize the freedom of true financial independence, then can we actually make progress towards changing our lives. These short-term opiates of the masses fail to strike at the core of what fulfills us. When we shun their siren call, we open ourselves up to the possibility of reaping genuine happiness.
And Finally… Acceptance
I’m not a fan of the anything goes/devil may care/laissez-faire attitude. I prefer to think that as a reasonably competent person, I can exert a modicum of control over my life.
My spending isn’t overblown because I regulate it. My money isn’t a mess because I manage it. My house is tidy because I actively declutter and clean it. My Frugal Hound is nice-smelling because I washed her. I have significantly less to fret about because I know that I’ve taken care of what’s within my power. The rest is completely out of my hands. And I have to be at peace with that. I’m working to find my way to a place where I breathe through the uncertainties and ambiguities (not a strength of mine) and arrive at acceptance.
With the impending arrival of Babywoods, my detailed lists and advance planning have allowed me to reach a point where I’m not worried about her birth or our nascent parenting days. Sure, there’s plenty I’ve probably forgotten or neglected, but I’ve tried my best. There’s nothing I can do about when I’ll go into labor, or what the birth will be like, or even Babywoods’ initial temperament as a, well, baby. But I’ve controlled what I can. And for me, that’s liberating.