Let go of the oars

I like me a good mantra.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that anxiety has plagued me since becoming a mama. My anxiety hasn’t been the debilitating variety – the kind that makes a person afraid to leave their child unattended while napping lest they stop breathing, or terrified to drive with their kids in the car.

Mine seems to have manifested as the need to control everything.  If I take care of all the variables in a given situation, then things will be fine and I will feel calmer.

There are two problems with this thinking, though:

  1. Taking care of all of the variables in any situation is exhausting because
  2. It. Is. Not. Possible.

I can’t control the weather. I can’t control other people.  I can’t control my urge to dance when I hear ‘Billie Jean’.


It’s true that you can control certain elements of a situation by being prepared. You can’t stop the rain from falling at your picnic, but you can pack an umbrella.  I can’t make my toddler eat broccoli, but I can puree it and hide it in a smoothie. I can’t stop my infant daughter from waking for the day at 5:30am, but I can have the coffee machine ready to go. Elements.  Not the whole situation.

I see so many mamas who take a laid back approach to life with kids.  They are busy, and they are tired, but they aren’t thrumming with anxiety.  They have accepted that life with kids is messy and unpredictable and loud and exhausting.  They have stressful moments (they are human, after all), but worry doesn’t dominate their experience of motherhood.

I want to be like them.

In my quest to ‘fix’ myself and find more peace in motherhood, I stumbled across an article that gave me a tool I have been seeking for some time now, without success.

It gave me a mantra.

Now before you go rolling your eyes at me and thinking I’m a cheese ball, hear me out.

Mantras are commonly used in meditation, and are suggested in just about every self-help book as a means to focus your thinking on whatever it is you wish to bring into your life: good health, self-acceptance, money, love, etc.

I’ve been trying out various mantras for awhile now, but none of them have had the desired effect.  Maybe that’s because they all included the F-bomb…?

Anywho…the article.

The writer spoke of her own incessant need to control everything in her life, and how exhausting and soul-depleting and futile it was.  She likened it to rowing a boat upstream against a strong current.  Her breathing was shallow, her heart raced, her vision narrowed.  And no matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t get anywhere.  She just got more tired and stressed. And then one day, recognizing that she was in her control-freak boat, paddling as if her life depended on it, she told herself to

let go of the oars

I swear, y’all, when I read those words, the metaphorical clouds parted and angels sang a peppy chorus of ‘Hallelujah’!

Let go of the oars.

Go with the current.  See what happens when you consciously surrender control – which you never really had in the first place.

So the day after I adopted my new mantra, the Universe decided to see if I could put my money where my mouth is to get through a situation that would strike fear into the heart of any parent: a 7-hour road trip with a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old.

Except, the Universe has a wicked sense of humour.  Instead of 7 hours, the trip ended up taking 9 hours due to construction on the highway and a navigational error by Mama Stupido that took us well off-course.

There was next to nothing about this situation that was within my control.  I couldn’t make the traffic move any faster.  I couldn’t get back the time we lost because I took us to Ottawa instead of Toronto. No amount of worrying was going to change the situation for the better.

If you could have plugged my inner thoughts into a speaker, this is what you would have heard:

Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars. Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.Letgooftheoars.

I was clinging hard to my mantra.

And you know what?

It actually really helped.

The situation was shite, but I wasn’t manning the panic stations.  I was as prepared as I could be with snacks and toys to keep my son distracted from the fact that he had spent most of the day in his carseat.  My spine was limber enough to allow me to turn around and rub my daughter’s head in an effort to soothe her whenever she lost her mind.  And I was actually able to laugh with my husband when both kids came unhinged in the last hour of the journey.  We laughed like crazy people.

Because what else could we do?

The pre-mantra me probably would have cried and bitten my fingernails down to stubs. Or said regrettable things to my husband.

So there, Universe.   Now we both know I can walk the walk and apply my mantra, even under the most anxiety-inducing circumstances.

Perhaps it’s overly-simplistic to think that a few words will have the power to turn my anxiety around entirely.  But when those words result in a palpable shift in mood and energy, I think I owe it to myself and my family to give them a go.





6 thoughts on “Let go of the oars

  1. Penpal, I read ever word you write… I’m so, so, touched and I learn from you each time (even though our lives are very different!). Even though it is taking some time for us to actually connect in person, I’m with you! This is such an incredible blog for moms and non-moms (aka the “aunties” like me out there) that is so friggn’ realistic. Love it and and love you to pieces. L


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