A Summer Lost in the Weeds

Lost in the weeds. We all find ourselves there sometimes – – in a place where we are so inside our own heads that we lose sight of the big picture. We lose our perspective. And when that happens, at least for me, I often become my own worst enemy and ineffective at handling life’s challenges.

Getting lost in the weeds and stuck in my head has defined my summer. This summer, I have often allowed myself to be more driven by my ego than by common sense.

The most recent example is about ten days ago when we dropped my older daughter off at college. It was her day, so she called the shots. Her assigned “move-in time” was 10:30 a.m., and we had about a three-hour drive. She instructed the family to be in the car ready to go at 6:45 a.m. She was in the car and prepared to leave by 6:40.

Then, at 6:44 a.m., our dog somehow got out of the house and started running around in circles in the yard like she had never been outside before. In her defense, golden retrievers love to play and be chased. So, Maddie thought it was a big game and had no incentive to behave or return inside – she was having too much fun!

The minutes ticked by. Maddie continued with her game of “chase.”  And my daughter became more and more anxious. Then, the anxiety turned to sobbing because she thought she would be late. Her dream of this perfect day and her whole college career were ruined. Had she lost perspective? Without a doubt. But she was an 18-year-old embarking on her life’s most significant, scariest, wonderful, and exciting adventure. Emotions were running high for all of us, as this would not just be a significant change for her but for our whole family. She was entitled to feel all the feels and let it all out. I was determined to keep it all in perspective for us both. Except that I didn’t.

I exited the car and returned to the house to let my husband know I would stay behind, catch the dog, drive up to the school separately, and meet them later so our daughter would not miss her move-in time slot.

And that is the moment where I, too, lost all perspective. I started to sob. MY vision of the day was ruined. I WOULD MISS the look of fear and excitement on her face when we arrived. I WOULD MISS helping unload the car. I WOULD MISS setting up her room. (I obviously had forgotten that it takes 18-year-old girls at least 8 hours to set up their dorm rooms!) I WOULD MISS when she met her new roommate for the first time. I WAS A FAILURE AS A MOTHER.

I let my ego take over and take any sense of perspective with it.

As my husband started walking out of the house to get back in the car and drive our girl to her new adventure, I took a deep breath and shifted my mindset. This was not the end of the world. It was not like if she was late, she would be locked out of the dorm, told to go home, never attend college, and live in our basement for most of her adult life. And the college president would not be waiting for us at 11 a.m. with a tuition refund check and a request to leave campus! Of that, I was sure! The absurdity of it all made me smile. And I knew it would all be fine – – no matter what time any of us arrived.

And here is the thing: I did not waste time beating myself up over my selfishness and loss of perspective. I was allowed to feel my feelings, free of my own judgment or anyone else’s, and did not need to apologize to myself or anyone else. Instead, I put the energy I would usually spend self-loathing into getting the dog back into the house! And I did! And quickly! I was brighter than my golden retriever, after all!

Just as my husband was pulling out of the driveway, I was able to catch him in time and jump into the car. And even though we left 30 minutes later than my daughter had wanted, we still arrived at the campus gates 12 minutes before the appointed time. Then we spent over an hour winding our way through campus with the hundred or so other families who also had a 10:30 a.m. move-in time! LOL. So much for the best laid plans! When we finally made it to her dorm a little after 11 a.m., the college president had not locked her out and was not waiting with a tuition refund check for us!

I don’t regret my behavior that morning. I have spent the summer refusing to “feel the feels” and instead trying to act how I thought I SHOULD feel. I realized I had lost my broader perspective long before Maddie was zooming around the yard. I realized I had spent the summer hiding in the weeds, not seeing things are they really were, but as I imagined them to be.

Why? I still need to figure out that part. Maybe it was a reaction to so much change in my life happening all at once, professionally and personally. And to fear. And to loss. And to being overwhelmed. I am still processing it all  — forever a work in progress.

Although that day did not go as expected, it had gone as it was meant to be. And I got to experience the happy and the sad, with clear eyes, no longer lost in the weeds, and feeling all the feels.

Recognizing my feelings has made me feel better, not worse, as I had feared it would. Feeling the feels had helped to return my perspective. After all, to acknowledge our feelings is to recognize what is true. For me, owning the truth makes me feel better and more in control of my destiny, even when the truth itself is not what I want it to be. True strength and power – – and perhaps even happiness — is the ability to find our way out of the weeds and to own all the good, the bad, and the ugly that life has to offer.

P.S. This photo is not of my darling Maddie – it is a purchased stock photo. Seems that Maddie also equates getting her photo taken with a game of chase!

Young Golden Retriever posing in flowers. Beautiful dog with black eye Susans blooming. Retriever at sunset in a field of flowers and golden light.