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I'm Fine. Everything Is Under Control.

Monday, February 6, 2012
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In the movie Mary Poppins, it starts with the children running away and the nanny quitting.  Chaos.  The father comes home from work and starts to sing a happy tune about how tight his house is run, “At 6:01, I march through my door…My slippers, sherry, and pipe are due at 6:02… It's 6:03 and the heirs to my dominion are scrubbed and adequately fed, and so I'll send them off to bed...”  Only there are no kids. 

Later in the movie, Mary Poppins enters the picture, and with outings and stories his children are experiencing, the father feels his world is turned upside down.  So Mary Poppins teaches him a word, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” she says.  “It’s a word to say when you don’t know what to say.”

“Well Mary Poppins, I always know what to say” he replies, almost firing her on the spot.

After he loses his job at the bank - due to his children who caused a riot at his work - he is called in by the board and they ask him what he has to say for himself.  He, of course, can’t think of anything and says, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and finds himself laughing and yelling to no one in particular, “Mary Poppins was right!”   The bank board thinks he has gone nuts, but he hasn’t.  He has found clarity; clarity in a situation that at first seemed was utter confusion.  He thought Mary Poppins turned his world upside down, yet upon closer look, she created an amazing amount of stability in that household.

How did she create control and stability?   By shaking the entire philosophical foundation of the father and everyone else in the house, by showing them that if you want the most control, you need to lose some of your control. Life is not a bank statement and cannot be lived that way.  He thought his life was running so smoothly when everything was timed to the minute, but it was a time bomb waiting to explode.

Like Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins, my world was upside down.  Every aspect of my life was complete chaos.  I was trying to shut out the ugly thoughts – the final weeks of me care giving for Lisa in a hospice bed – and was able to lie to myself about what had happened and what lies ahead.  I thought I was controlling grief.  But in the back of my mind, I knew something wasn’t right, and sooner or later, my emotions were all going to come crashing down.

So I let grief come to me; all the bad feelings, images, discussions, thoughts.  It’s been the scariest ride I’ve ever been on.  Each day not knowing what was going to come at me or when: Buying milk – thoughts of our family at the dinner table.  Getting ready for bed – in my mind, seeing Lisa reading a book waiting for me to come to bed and turn off the light.  Hearing a song on the radio – falling apart right before I was about to get out of the car and meet friends. 

I let go of control because I couldn’t get my feelings to work like a bank statement.  I even used to try to save my really bad days for anniversaries and birthday – but most of the time those days turned out okay and it was buying oranges at Jewel that threw me into a four day funk. 

I let grief come to me on its terms and not mine, because every time I try and turn my grief into a Mary Poppins song, “At 6:01, I block out thoughts of Lisa…My denials and justifications begin at 6:02… It's 6:03 and the heirs to my dominion are scrubbed and adequately fed, and so I'll ignore that I am doing this alone, and send them off to bed...” it takes me longer to get control of my life and I’m stuck.

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