healing, Winter

Relinquishing Control

So, it snowed in Athens again! I’ve been here since the end of 2011, and the first time it snowed ‘properly’ was last winter. Don’t get me wrong, it often snows in Greece … just not here in Athens. Then, Storm Elpis hit us at the beginning of last week. Where we live, on the western edge of the city, things weren’t too bad. Our council salted the main roads and we didn’t lose power even for five minutes. But in other parts of the city, the damage was severe. Roads were impassable, trees were down, and some areas had no power for days.

My neighbourhood during the snowstorm

Standing on my balcony, looking out over the white city and the white mountains, I thought back to five months ago. I was looking at the same scene – except then it was 43°C, the air was choked with smoke and I could see the flames of two fires burning to the north and west.

Sunrise from my balcony during the Summer 2021 fires

This is not a post about climate change – although it could easily go that way. This is a post about relinquishing control.

I don’t know about you, but I am a self-confessed control freak. I am too organised – my lists are legendary – and I always want to know when, where, for how long, etc. Well, living in Greece is definitely a cure for that! You can’t be too much of a control freak here and not lose your mind. You just have to lean into the fact that everything is up in the air, and nothing is as it seems. But I think the past two years have highlighted to us all, wherever we are, that we have far less control than we thought. Plan a holiday? A trip? Imagine your kids will go to school on a school day? That you will go to work? That you can walk into a shop without a QR code, or down the street without a mask?

The garden as the snow was falling

Storm Elpis was another exercise in flexibility. Suddenly, everything stopped. I mean, really stopped. We had a geniki argia here – two days when there was no public transport, no work, no shops open. I had never heard of such a thing. There was no school all week for my three kids. Of course, they were supposed to do online lessons for three of those days, but lessons were … sporadic, to say the least. Appointments were cancelled, and I was unable to get hold of the medical results which I had been awaiting (sleeplessly) for weeks. If, like us, you had planned to go food shopping on Tuesday, it was an exercise in creativity too. Sometimes it’s very good to be married to a chef!

It was dreadful for so many people, I know that. But it was such a gift to me.

Snow on the apricot trees

Mainly because I had the third dose of my vaccination on Monday, and I was pretty poorly all night and most of the next day. Luckily, Tuesday was the first day of the geniki argia. I would never have curled up under a blanket if it had been an ‘ordinary’ day. I would have powered through, feeling awful, because I ‘have to’ and if it got really, really bad I would have called for backup. … No, I’m kidding. I would have popped a painkiller and kept going. Because, despite all I know, I still try to be superwoman 24/7.

God, it felt good to let that go.

I really let myself rest. I had no pressure to work, to take my kids to any place (they had the snow to play with, after all!), and I made sure I did nothing in the house. I let go of all control – what we would eat, where we would go and when, exercise, chores, everything.

It was so good for me. Physically and, of course, mentally.

Snow melting on a pink rose

So I’ve decided to make that a part of my life. Not just when I feel so rough that I think I might throw up. Not just when an unprecedented snowstorm hits my home city and the government declares a state of emergency.

On a regular basis.

It’s a question of mindset, for me, I think. Because, sure, I already chill out in front of Netflix sometimes with my husband. I’m a yoga devotee. Often, I do a medi in bed before I sleep. Sometimes, I go stare at the night sky for a while. But it takes A LOT to quiet the monkey-mind of someone like me. I am always on. Even at night, I have multiple dreams while I’m asleep. Some of them are nice, calm dreams. Most of them involve running, hiding, floods, and – last week – a nuclear explosion. (I know, right?!)

We expect rest to come naturally – and it should. But we are so far removed from our ‘natural’ state that we are switched on all the time. Some of us have forgotten where the off button even is, and it’s a heck of a journey to relocate it. I’m doing a lot of work on this at the moment because of my personal health concerns, and in my next post I’ll share a bit of the science. (I am, among other things, a science graduate, after all!) I’ll also share some practical knowledge, because that’s what I promised you on my Home page: We don’t just want to know why, we want to know how.

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