Tuesday, February 5, 2013

On Control, Perfection and Falling Down

We make choices in our lives. What to eat. What to wear. Where to go. Who to talk to. What communications to return or ignore. Our lives are full of choices.

Amidst that choice, we have a sense of control …or we FEEL we have a sense of control. After all, we decided to have a cheeseburger and fries for lunch or return that call. We picked out the clothes we put on. We had that drink. We pulled out the credit card to purchase those shoes or that book or that fancy dress for the theatre banquet.

But the nature of life doesn’t allow for control of everything. Oh, we believe it does, in our limited thinking. We think we can manage everything. Determine our responses. Train our thoughts. Control our actions. By our very arrogance, we can ensure that we are perfect.

But people come into our lives and affect our ability to control. Words are said which demand a response. Actions are taken and the resulting reaction might be unplanned or unanticipated. Sometimes, it's not even your fault. Stuff just happens and wham ... there you are! You go somewhere and expect something to happen … then something different happens. Dynamics are never predictable. Responses cannot always be managed. And, when we try to influence them against the ever changing elements around us, we panic. We become anxious. We implode.

I look back at myself … seeing my life as a movie at certain moments. I watch myself kinda like you watch that woman in the horror film and KNOW she shouldn’t go into the dark forest alone or open that door. You KNOW something is out there that she isn’t planning for … not expecting … not prepared for.

But she opens the door. She goes into the dark forest. She falls when the monster chases her. You know it’s going to happen. You want to forewarn her. But, in her arrogance, she thinks she has it all under control. She can handle it. She might be able to predict possibilities, but she can’t manipulate what’s happening around her or what other people might do.

As a Control Freak … Type A and Intense since I was Four … I make lists. I check off tasks. I control what I eat and where I go. I decide what I buy and who I see. I plan an event and check and recheck and reconfirm numerous things. But … despite all my checks and rechecks … stuff falls thru the cracks and doesn’t happen as I expect, plan or say it will. Now I face a choice … implode or just roll with it and do the best I can. Go on the defensive or the offensive …

One thing I’ve come to terms with … and believe you me, this was a tough one … is that I am not perfect. I do the best I can every single day. I don’t get up saying … hey, let’s screw up today and see what happens. No, stuff happens … sometimes based on my actions or the unpredictability of “the Perfect Storm.” What do I do? I put my head down, ground myself and don the Teflon coating for those days when stuff flies at me that I wasn’t expecting. I stumble, but I get up. And you know what, I’m okay with that. I like not being perfect. I like being a work in progress.

If I never fell, I’d never climb. If I never messed up, I’d never learn. I made discoveries in high school and college … I will continue to make discoveries at each stage of my life. I’m far from done yet. So watch out ya’ll. I’m gonna screw up again. I’m not gonna control something in my Type A-ness and I’m gonna suffer the wrath of one of my favorite words: Consequences. But you know what? (Here's something else I've learned!) The sun will rise and life will go on. And sometimes, when you let go and free fall, there are some really great, amazing surprises that take place. A conversation with a friend. A laugh and a reconnection. A new door opening. A surprise meeting on the road that offers you something special and a little wonderful. Sometimes after a really, really bad day ... a friend says something to you or goes to bat for you in an unexpected way ... making all the awful stuff somehow perhaps even bearable. One bit of brightness comes out of all the crap.

Another thing I’ve learned … I can’t control what my kids do and what happens to them. My son lost his iPod Touch a few months back. As he cried on my shoulder, I ached. Oh, I could have given him the “Why did you take it into a Corn Maze when you knew you were going to be running around anyway?” response. But it was better to just let him cry. He was going to beat himself up. I know him well enough to know he’s experiencing all sorts of regrets. Talking thru the What Ifs. No need to add my two cents. He is who he is. I love him that way and I wouldn’t change a hair on his head. He knows I’m not perfect … I don’t hide that from my kids. And he knows I don’t expect him to be either.

That’s something I’m learning … and will continue to learn and relearn probably all my life. To accept stuff and stop trying to control it. I know how easily Guilt and Worry can flow like water. I know places and people who believe life is black and white. I learned to struggle with big and little things at a very young age. But Worrying doesn’t give me control. It just gives me anxiety, guilt and stress. It keeps me from sleeping. It’s up to me to stop the cycle of What Ifs and If Only comments and thoughts and embrace the quirky stuff that happens as it happens. It scares me sometimes. At times I’m better at dealing with my own lack of control then other times. But Life is full of surprises. Unanticipated actions. Crazy occurrences. Unexpected physical stressors. You can no more control them then you can the person sitting opposite you. However did I imagine that I had that kind of power? And, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who wants to live a flow chart where you know exactly what’s coming next and travel from step to step like a robot? Bring on the surprises.

All you can do is learn to ride it out. Roll with it. Find the joy around you and recognize the futility of trying to control every little thing. It only leads to experiencing the Drama that inevitably arrives when you fall short and drop the ball. Instead of Holding Tight today, I challenge you to make a snow angel or take a walk in the fresh cold air. Twirl in the snow or sunshine and appreciate the unpredictability of our world. Understand that life is hills and valleys and you can’t honestly appreciate the sunrise until you’ve been down in the darkness. Accept that some days life sucks and other days are magical. Sip your coffee slower. Enjoy that cheeseburger and fries. Pay the credit card and remember that you will be stunning in that dress. Hug your kids and let them learn to embrace imperfection. Collect the good and forgive the rest.


                                                                                                                                            -- Jenni