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Jewish Journal

Living Life on Cruise Control

by Ilana Angel

May 24, 2013 | 7:07 am

On Sunday night of last week, while making dinner, I burned my left forearm. I reached into the oven to pull out the shelf and retrieve dinner, and the shelf hit my arm.  It was an immediate jolt, but more shocking than painful.  It didn't look like anything and I figured it was a light burn and not a big deal.

The next day while at work, I noticed that my sleeve was soaking wet.  I couldn't figure out why, so I took off my cardigan and saw that I had a massive wound on my arm.  I had forgotten about the burn but immediately saw how badly I had hurt myself.  My tiny little burn was now a massive, gaping wound.

It had blistered over, opened, and was now two inches long and one inch wide.  I had burned myself badly and it was deep. I was with a friend who is a chef, and happened to have some burn ointment as a trick of her trade.  She gave me the cream and I put it on, not sure of exactly how it got so bad.

By Tuesday it appeared to be getting bigger. By Wednesday it was swollen, and today it looks as if a chunk of my arm was cut out.  I am heading to the doctor as my little burn has taken on a life if its own.  This burn has mirrored my week. Little things are turning into big things, and I am stressed.

It's been a bad week.  For every step I took forward, I took two back.  Little problems seem like big issues, and easy decisions have become complicated.  The interesting thing is I didn't realize this was happening until I understood how bad the burn was.  The burn has brought an odd perspective.

I have been going through the motions of life without really being aware of how I am living my life. I am not paying proper attention to things because I have been operating in cruise control.  I have been ignoring things that need my attention and allowing my life to pass by without my participation.

I am not much of a procrastinator.  If something needs doing, I do it, so it feels strange to now be in a position where I have a list of things I need to take care of. It sounds easy enough but some of the things on my list will require real time and attention, not just a quick fix to check them off the list.

This morning I am getting a grasp of it all and learning that in burning myself, I have discovered I am burnt out. I am going through the motions, putting on a happy face, and sweeping a lot of emotions and struggles under the rug.  My tripping on the pile I've created was bound to happen.

I am a blessed and fortunate woman so I hate to complain, but I'm not much of a complainer and so sometimes it feels good to just bitch.  Life is good but could it be great if I paid more attention? Has cruise control made me complacent and therefore settling for a life that could be better?

We spend so much time worrying about our kids, money, work, health, family, and the world in general, that a little perspective is needed.  The things I worry about will be there whether I am stressed about them or not.  Instead of worrying I must focus on eliminating what worries me.

My son is growing up and with one more year at home before he goes to college, is this worried and stressed out mother the person I want him to be with for his final year at home?  I want him to look back at our time together and remember the fun, not  the list of things his mom was working on.

I often think about what my son will remember about his childhood.  Being raised by a single mother has challenges and rewards, and I want for his childhood memories to be shaped by the rewards, not the challenges. I need to remember that what I do now, is what he will remember later.

It is interesting that a burn led to such thoughtful reflection.  I am disappointed with a few things, but also empowered.  I may not be responsible for my disappointment, but I am responsible for how I channel my empowerment. It's time for me shake it all off and jump into my life.

No more cruise control. I am taking charge of life and fixing what does not work.  I am going to focus on being the best mother I can be and enjoying this special time with my son.  My little tiny baby is now a high school senior and I am going to embrace it instead of worrying about it.

Life is complicated and sometimes confusing, but it turns out we make it that way.  We all get burned on occasion and it is how we handle the pain that determines how quickly we heal. I got burned, literally and figuratively this week, but I'm still lucky, blessed, and keeping the faith.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Ilana Angel writes two blogs for JewishJournal.com. KEEPING THE FAITH is about her worldview as a single Jewish mother, and KEEPING IT REAL is all about reality television....

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