The Cold Sweat


Spoiler alert: I prefer control over chaos.

If you know me in real life, this won’t come as a surprise. Neither will the fact that merely typing the word surprise makes me break into a cold sweat.

No, spontaneity is not my jam. My jam is predictability. Or—probably definitely—blueberry, spread on a bagel toasted by me in my own kitchen.

And if we’re getting really honest, the BEST bagels come with cream cheese, tomato slices, raw onion, cracked black pepper, and capers. In fact on Easter Sunday, after Bill and I dropped the kids at the airport, we went to an all-you-can-eat brunch where I enjoyed two bagels—four halves, actually, on four different trips to the buffet—and two heaping plates of peel-n-eat shrimp. Notice the evenness? Read this post and please don’t BE AFRAID OF ME. Also, if you’re wondering what else I ate at an all-you-can-eat buffet, the answer is nothing. Because bagels and shrimp make me happy, and why risk disappointment in huevos rancheros? 

Anyway, my point is this: I could stand to loosen up.

Which brings me back to our spring break.

Bill and I knew we’d have the kids under our roof for ten whole days.

We also knew this would be amazing.

And I probably definitely wanted to curate the amazing.

So we made plans featuring cousins and aunts and uncles. Plans featuring just the four (plus three dogs) of us. Plans with the four of us plus Jack’s girlfriend. Plans with extended friends and family. Having fun with the people I love is one of my chief goals in life.

But the more I try to control the fun, the less fun we have.

Probably. Definitely. Irony.

Anyway, over spring break, there were roughly 11 people and five dogs staying here at any given time.

On Sunday morning—while we were sipping coffee and contemplating Bloody Marys—there came a knock at the door.

Who could it be? Everyone is here! I DID NOT PLAN THIS!

Cue the cold sweat.

On the porch stood my cousin Eric and his friend Susan. They were on their way up to Cambria and stopped by to surprise me.


Guess what?


Not just because of the Bloody Marys.

No, the fun came from the people and the laughs and the wagging tails and the fact that I hadn’t spent all morning/weekend/spring break worried about HAVING A GOOD TIME ON SUNDAY WITH MY COUSIN because I hadn’t even known this good time would happen.

This was probably definitely the key.

Since then, I’ve taken some stock and decided I need less control/strictness and more chaos/release.

This is not just because my forty-something neck is now ropy from all the clenching and angst and happiness.

The thing is, I’m a Library Monitor now. My actual job is avoiding chaos.

Order. Structure. Rule-following <—That’s WHAT I ENFORCE.

And that’s probably definitely one piece-of-control too many in this puzzle.

I realized something:

My writing life is beyond my control. I can’t force an agent to love my characters, an editor to get sucked into my plot.

I work as hard as I ever have, with no guarantee of success. All I can do is I give it my best and surrender.

I’m ready to do that in my personal life. Probably. Definitely.


My fellow introverts who break into a cold sweat at the thought of someone randomly ringing your doorbell:

Wish me well. Please.

This letting go thing could damn near kill me.

Or it could just be the best year of my life…


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7 thoughts on “The Cold Sweat

  1. Diane

    Letting go…I can’t wait to see this!

  2. Eric St. John Christianson

    Always happy to bring some chaos, just glad I’m at a point in my life where it’s surprise visits and not inevitable arrests. Love you, and if I ever find myself near your neck of the woods, expect that surprise knock on the door. We’re too far into this life to not seize every opportunity to spread the love around.

  3. Let it go… let it go… Here’s to wishing you the best year ever.

  4. I worry about the opposite. Too much chaos/release, not enough planning. And I love surprises and extrovert stuff, but still random doorbells make me twitchy until I remember how awesome they are when it’s good people on the other side.

  5. Did I write this post?!?! I like to plan and be organized. I’m learning it’s like the Serenity Prayer-make lists and organize what I can and then have fun. So, yes have plenty of food and drinks on hand then enjoy! Whoever rings the bell!

  6. Sorry – I read this and now I’m thinking about nothing beyond a breakfast buffet.

    And with my limited carb plans (seriously, I like to think I only drink my carbs), breakfast buffets usually mean eggs & bacon. On repeated trips. Or, if it’s a REAL special buffet, lox. And it sounds like you had lox at your buffet, and now I’m entirely jealous (at my last company, we had a major office in the middle-of-nowhere, Netherlands – seriously, the town had one hotel, three restaurants, and a business park, at which I worked — I no longer work for that company, so if I’m taking the family with me to Europe, chances are I shouldn’t go to this town because everyone would be bored, but the breakfast buffet was SO GOOD that I’d deal with the constant whine).

    But it sounds like a great time was had . . . I, myself, like a fair bit of chaos — when you don’t know what might come next, I find that I absorb everything around me just a little bit better. If everything is going according to plan, I overlook the details.

  7. I need to borrow some of your organizational skills and I’ll be more than happy to share my steaming pot of chaos, which usually boils over 🙂

    Adorable post. Glad I finally read it!

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