How to control the uncontrollable

Apr 4, 2022

Trigger warning: Gettin’ real about loss, life, self-talk and anxiety. 

I’m writing this email on February 3rd. There’s nothing special or remarkable about today, and I think we can all agree that today is definitely not the new year. It’s not the western New Year (Jan 1st) and it’s not the Chinese New Year (Feb 1st). But y’know what? It’s MY New Year.

Fuck it. If living through these unprecedented times has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t rely on our plans anymore. Nothing is set in stone. Everything is loose, and if you’re lucky, maaaaybe your plans might happen. I know, ’cause I’ve made a whoooole lot of plans lately. But I haven’t done any real work in my business for nearly two months.

And if you’re wondering how it feels to be MIA in your biz for two months, I’m here to tell ya it hasn’t been all sandy toes, sea salted hair and cake. In fact, being away from my business for so long feels shit. And instead of feeling well-rested, I’m going to bed attempting to shut down my shitty self-talk and remind myself that I haven’t failed.

‘Cause the truth is that I feel guilty, lazy, and I can’t shake the thought that I’ve let people down. I haven’t. I’ve fulfilled my responsibilities. But beyond that? Nada. There’s been no goal-slaying, no big biz building and no visionary ideas brewing up some magic in my mind.

And that’s okay. (I repeat to myself, reassuringly, at least five times a day.) Sometimes life has other ideas. A quote that’s been on rerun in my mind lately is: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. Ahh, the wisdom of John Lennon, hey?

You see, in December I couldn’t work. One of my oldest and dearest friends was dying and then died of cancer. I was an emotional mess. We met in design school when we were just 19 years old. Lisa was more than my best mate; she was my person. We spent our youth growing up, cracking up, fucking up, and navigating the awkward transition from young adult to just plain ol’ adult. We collected Dorito dust in our cars as we road-tripped together to see horrible 90s bands, and shared suitcase space as we travelled to [Anna to insert places]. Losing her felt like losing a part of me. I couldn’t function, so prior to Christmas, I stepped away from work. It was the right thing to do, and I don’t regret it for a second. Sometimes life happens, and sometimes we can’t just move on and pretend everything is okay. We need to respect ourselves. And in December, what I really needed was to cry, a lot, and scream, a lot more. Grief is a bitch.

Then, in January, I took some time out to plan the year ahead. I settled on my word for the year “HONOUR” because one of my last conversations with Lisa was her telling me to live a big life for both of us, and I plan on keeping my promise. I created my vision board and decided on my four big goals for 2022.  I’d mourned Lisa, now it was time to live – and kick arse – for her.

Then I got covid.

Y’know how some people say covid is like getting a flu? Even a “mild” flu, for some? Well, for me, covid was like being hit by a fricken freight training carrying osmium (the world’s heaviest substance, btw). For three weeks, I couldn’t talk, walk, taste or smell. And even though I’m a boss in my business, I’m a fucking sook when I’m sick. I was angry, depressed and annoyed that my plans to kick off the year had been cancelled.

In retrospect though, the universe delivered exactly what I asked for. On my vision board, I wrote: “Let go of what I cannot control.”

And, man, none of us can control death and covid, right?

Which brings me back to Mr Lennon. Even though we set goals and create vision boards and write lists and build spreadsheets and make bookings, life doesn’t give a fuck. It doesn’t stop, or even pause, when we need it to. It just keeps comin’. And that doesn’t make us bad at business or crappy at mothering. It just means we’ve gotta deal with life first.

Now, I know many of you are anxious about the year ahead. “What surprise hiccups are awaiting me this year?” You’re probably wondering (likely with a few expletives thrown in, if you’re anything like me.) And your first urge is likely going to be to try and control the uncontrollable. To make back-up plans and plan C’s and plan Z’s. Trust me, I get it. I’m a force to be reckoned with when I want something to happen, and I’ve raised my daughters to be and do the same. If we want something, we don’t give up. We get shit done.

But what happens when you can’t get shit done? What happens when covid locks you down and life fucks things up? When your plans get ruined, and nothing goes right? If you’re me, you give yourself a REALLY hard time. Your self-talk gets sloppy, and your hibernating inner mean girl stretches awake, eyes bright, and clears her throat. You can bet your butt that bitch has a whole lot to say, and it’s about as helpful as a pool noodle in the desert. So you try to control things a little more. Hold on a little tighter. A little tighter. A little tighter. Until your jaw is clenched and your hands are shaking and everything you do feels excruciatingly painful.

That’s what it feels like to attempt to control the uncontrollable. Which is why, this year, I want us to make a pact. It goes a little like this:

We’re going to make big, beautiful plans. For us, our families, our businesses and our futures. And we’re going to accept that some of those plans might happen. Some of them might not. But no matter what happens, we’re just gonna ride the waves of life together. And we’re going to be gentle with ourselves along the way.

‘Cause you don’t need another asshole telling you to do and be better. Especially when that asshole is you. What you need is unconditional love and respect. You deserve it.

So, what do you say, [“first name”]? We don’t know what’s coming. Nobody does. But I know that, together, we’re going to deal with it. So let’s loosen our grip a little this year and let life happen.

Honouring your big beautiful life,

Anna x

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