Control Freak: eat sleep pray

I sit in my sister’s bed in her dazzling white bedroom and shiver. The window's open - locked open - and I can't shut it. The morning sun has disappeared and grey winter clouds hang low over the London skyline. My nose is frozen, I rub it and sniff.

She sent me up to sleep, my sister. My young children play tirelessly and she, seeing my shadowed eyes and pale skin, stroked my back and said,

"Go and sleep, Emma. Go and sleep."

I ascend the narrow staircase and, after trying to close the window, snuggle into the bed and... read. I know the instruction was to sleep, but I'm reading Eat Pray Love and I want to get back to it.

I keep calling it Eat Sleep Pray, which says something about my own needs. I bend back the front cover – I’m not a careful reader – and start to read. It is chapter 49 and the author talks about being a control freak.

I read the chapter and then put the book down and stare at the grey sky out of the window. I too have these tendencies. Not a bad thing, per se, just something to keep under control.

I talked with my husband last week.

I told him I didn’t want to be the Time Police anymore.

"Good" he said.

I told him I didn't want to control every spare moment of his time, armed with a long list of familial obligations, DIY, environmental, keep fit and wardrobe suggestions.

"Good," he said.

I told him I didn't want to check he'd taken sufficient time off for the family, for chores, for himself. That he was a grown man and a good man and that he could check that himself.

"Good," he said.

I also stopped trying to micro-manage my five year old. I'm tired of constantly piping out instructions as if she were a robot and I were responsible for personally programming every movement.

Walking to school with Emily and her children yesterday, I was burbling on about my latest project and interrupting myself every sentence or so with barked commands to my children, as usual.

"Mind the dog poo, stop at the road, don't run too fast, do your coat up, leave your coat on, don't walk on the grass there's dog poo, don't hide in that front garden, don't touch the cars, don't pick flowers, come out of that shop, don't pick up that sweet wrapper, wait at the next lamp post, move out the way, let the lady past, stop dilly dallying, mind the DOG POO..."

Emily managed to walk on without hollering instructions to her children every two seconds and after a while I began to notice the difference. I lapsed into silence. We walked along, her two obediently in tow beside her, mine running ahead, swinging round lamp posts and balancing on walls.

"Why?" I asked, perplexed.

She frowned and shook her head.

Maybe she never started.

Maybe I should stop.

And so this heralds a new era in our family. Maybe.

When I get home, I'm tempted to stick Post It notes all over the house, reminding myself to ‘relax’ and to ‘let it be’; ‘to watch the world’, as it says in Eat Pray Love, rather than insisting on controlling it. And then I smile wryly as I notice my attempt to control my attempt to stop the control.

Read last month's post: autumn visitor

Emma is a columnist and feature writer for Liberti Magazine.

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