Last weekend, this really cool thing happened. My kids had been trying, for like a month since our anniversary, to have a “spa day” for my husband and me. We kept putting them off. We’ve got soccer today. You need to get your homework done. I’m too tired, etc. etc. A lesser set of kids would have given up, but no, they kept at it. And we finally had our spa day. The day (not even a day, an hour!) that they had meticulously and sweetly planned. You’d think I would be looking forward to it. But no. I winced at the thought of it.
What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just stop doing the laundry (dinner prep, dusting, cleaning, organizing, etc.) and enjoy the gift my kids are desperately trying to give me? Why can’t I allow them to do this incredibly thoughtful thing? Well, the only reason that I can come up with is not one I am particularly proud of. I like to be in control. Now I am not too keen on the control freak lingo. It makes me sound fucked up and I’m not. (But a geek? I can totally geek out on neuroscience and pop psychology and yoga. So yeah, “geek” is better.) Besides, a true control freak manipulates, pressures and is empty in a spiritual way. I just want it to go my way. Like, all the time.
Here in the suburbs, there is a lot of shit to do. And worry about. We have to do the carpool tonight. Your friend found out her asshole husband is cheating on her. You walked into your son’s room and mistakenly thought a bomb had gone off in there. You have a deadline, a PTA meeting, a cold sore. Your to do list varies from call the plumber to make an appointment to renew your anti-depressant. Damn, it’s no wonder you’re feeling a little overwhelmed!
In your brain, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released when things are clicking and going your way. You know, your kid got an “A” on his report card, someone told you that you looked good in those pants, you got out of the house this morning without yelling at anyone…you get it. This neurochemical makes you feel good in the wake of these often unexpected good tidings. But then, when things aren’t going your way, those neurochemicals (your friends: neurepinephrine, oxytocin and seratonin) stubbornly do not release. This is when you feel out of control. This is when you feel powerless.
But wait! Good fucking news!
There are other ways to open the feel good neurochemistry floodgates. You actually do have control over your neurochemistry! First of all, you could go straight for carbs. That will do it. Just don’t OD on them, you’ll only feel worse. I personally recommend a slice of bread with butter. Delish. (*note* not five slices, just one). Sadly, with carbs, the seratonin boost is short-lived. If you want a boost that lasts longer, choose sex. An orgasm. That’s a surefire way to get your brain in a good mood. Husbands: you’re welcome.
Get a double whammy and go outside to exercise. The light combined with aerobic exercise are known ways to increase seratonin production. Also, hugs!! Not a quick one, it has to last like up to 10 seconds for oxytocin to do it’s thang. Positive social interactions also support your brain in a myriad of ways. This means happy hour with friends to some. To others it means bible study or book club or a sports bar for the game or quilting club. Whatever floats your boat, but it has to be something you look forward to, not dread.
News flash! You do not have control over your life, your child’s life or your spouse’s life. You do not have control over whether your neighbor cleans up his yard either. But it is up to you to make space for happiness, for quiet moments and for getting deep.
So when your kids have a spa for you, let go of your to-do’s. Yes, the manicure is a little messy. Yes, the hair stylist hurts you when she brushes your hair. Yes, the massage therapist does this awkward poking-like hand motion. But it all feels good anyway.
Because you let it.
Are you a control geek?
Above image credit: growingandserving.com