A Middle Aged Woman Laughs at En”Lightening” Up
By:  Mary Fran Bontempo

This human journey can be one tough road to navigate.

Not only do we have to deal with the messiness of daily life, but more and more, we’re being urged to get in touch with our spiritual selves—to become “enlightened” about the true meaning of our existence. And according to the current crop of metaphysical gurus, the path to enlightenment involves surrender—giving up control of our lives to a higher power.

I’m all for it.

Lest anyone mistake my jumping on the bandwagon due to an acute awareness of my spiritual nature and a longing to engage in metaphysical pursuits, blah, blah, blah, let me clarify. I’m more than ready to surrender, but it’s not because I’m enlightened; it’s because I’m exhausted.

I think I may be a victim of conflicting clichés. As a child, I was always schooled that “God helps those who help themselves,” thus instituting a lifetime of striving mightily to make things happen even if it meant banging my head against a brick wall continuously when the odds were firmly stacked against me. Set goals, make a plan, work the plan, get things done and never give up, no matter what happens, even if you knock yourself unconscious from all that head banging.

So that’s what I did. From the time I was old enough to learn from the good Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that God wanted me to have an active role in this foray into insanity known as life, I grabbed hold of the reins and tried to control a runaway horse, without having a clue about how to even climb into the saddle.

Oh, sometimes it worked out. I did well in school, managed to find work to pay the bills, married a great guy, had three kids, moved to the ‘burbs, etc. But the devil was in the details. School was great, but my degree is in Secondary Education, and I never taught full time, for various reasons. The work paid the bills, but it was never the fabulous career I envisioned in my youth.

The marriage? Still going strong, thank goodness. Of course when the kids came along, that’s when the horse really took off running. Any illusion of control evaporated the moment that first squalling, squirming little angel (note the dichotomy) made his appearance and from there it was all, well, “down hill” is a bit harsh, but you get the idea.

The irony is that you lose all control at the precise moment you want it most. As a mother, you want to not only protect your children from physical harm, you want to ensure their happiness throughout every second of their lives, thus, of course, setting everyone up for disappointment and disillusionment.

The fact is, any appearance of control in this life is just that—appearance. Try as we might, stuff happens, to paraphrase another cliché, and most of the time, we just can’t do anything about it, save try to manage the fallout, pick up the pieces and go on. I’m not trying to sound fatalistic here, I believe in free will and all that, but I think our freedom of choice surfaces most frequently when we choose how we’re going to react to whatever’s going at the moment. We don’t get to choose the events; we get to choose our reaction to them.

Most of the time, my chosen reaction has been hysteria—hence the exhaustion. I’ve overreacted more times than not to just about everything, the good and the bad, forgetting yet another relevant cliché—“This, too, shall pass.” Ultimately, my reactions did little to change the actual events, but I did make things a lot harder on myself and my family by pushing the panic button as the first line of defense, when a deep breath and counting to ten would have been so much more effective.

So now, I’m ready to embrace the whole “enlightenment” thing. If we’re going with the cliché theme, here, this time it’s “Let go and let God.” (Alter the deity or higher power to suit your particulars.) Once you pass the mid-century mark, especially if your journey has involved dealing with offspring, you realize that it’s all pretty much out of your hands anyway.

From now on, instead of “Oh my god!” it’s going to be a shrug and an “Oh my God, please take this mess off my hands,” while I surrender the goings-on around me to somebody else. I will then contemplate the metaphysical mystery of it all while pouring myself a glass of wine, munching on some expensive dark chocolate and taking a nice nap.

That’s right, I surrender. I give up. Let somebody else deal with it. If you’ve got a better solution, one that will help me on my search for spiritual advancement, by all means, let me know. But for now, my brand of “enlightenment” suits me just fine.

If you have your own ideas on getting “enlightened,” please share!  Click “comments” in red, below!