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  • Writer's picturemaggiehsmith07

Independence Day

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Andrea and I rolled out of Illinois this morning. We had originally booked the Airbnb rental through tomorrow but had decided to head home today to finish up the short work week from there.

Leaving Illinois on Independence Day strikes me as somewhat ironic. I recall leaving Illinois almost 31 years ago - not an Independence Day but what became Independence for me. Leaving home and beginning to navigate my way in the world.

I have stickers on my work laptop and one reads, “Relax. Nothing is under control.”  Once, during a rare, in person, work meeting with my colleagues, one of them whispered they liked the sticker. Because we were in a meeting, I didn’t get to ask why. Maybe, like me, they needed the reminder. I tend to forget this even with the sticker but the universe is sure to remind me. As we made our way to Illinois last week, Anne texted to report that my books had been re-delivered to her house. I thought I would have avoided that by putting my address as both the shipping to and shipping from, return address.  But, it turned out, that I hadn’t been able to outsmart dumb. Anne dutifully took the books to UPS again, in an effort to get to the bottom of the mystery. She learned that a rogue sticker on the side of the box had caused the “sortation error”.

The books are now in Richmond, waiting for me to touch down at home base, sign and mail them.

On Sunday, I kick off a 4th week of consecutive travel. The Sunday trip was a work related plot twist. I don’t mind travel but 4 weeks is a bit bananas. I see the river cottage in my future. I’ve often said the area where the river cottage is located reminds me of a Midwest/Maine mashup - lush green farm lands but not Midwest flat.

On Sunday, Andrea and I drove out to Yorkville and Plano, Illinois. Yorkville was practically unrecognizable to me - it’s changed so much in the decades I’ve been away. Plano reminded me of the way Oswego used to look - green corn and soy fields. It poured on Sunday - after what had, by all accounts, been a dry month.

I think the lesson the universe has been trying to teach me in my travels is exactly what my sticker says: Relax. Nothing is under control.

But I’m a fixer. A problem solver. I get shit done. All of which is to say, I frequently  labor under the delusion that I can control things. This is precisely why my goddamn books got lost. Twice. To disabuse me of this notion.

I used to believe I could help other people. I could fix them. Make them better. Let me share with you one of life’s most disappointing lessons to date: You cannot fix people. Or change them. Help them step into the very best version of themselves.


Wanting to help people in this way comes from a place of great intentions. I see their potential and want them to see it too. I want them to embrace it. I want them to shrug off mediocrity. This compulsion comes from a good place.

As much as I’m a recovering people pleaser, I’m a recovering people fixer. And? I’m prone to relapse. I had a relapse in Illinois - looking at you, Bertinator.

Back when I worked with Bob, he would say, “We can’t want it more than they do.” “It”, in that case, may be referring to overcoming performance challenges. This phrase holds true.

Don’t worry - I’m familiar with my own shortcomings. And, when I focus on them, I’m just as relentless and punishing because I have control there.

In early sobriety, I was told I couldn’t control other people, places or things. I still try and it robs me of sleep and of peace.

And I’m all for letting Jesus take the wheel and shit but I’m gonna tell him what route to take - I know a better way!

I know. I know. Imagine if I didn’t have years of therapy under my belt?

Maybe on Independence Day I should loosen my grip.

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