Question: How many of you would say you are in control of your own life?
Question: Raise your hand if you agree with this statement. “When it comes to my life. It’s important to always be calm, cool and collected.”
The key word there is “always.” I’m not saying you shouldn’t ever be calm cool and collected.
BUT… As adults, I think we don’t allow ourselves to be goofy or silly because we think we always need to have it together. Many of us are so worried about what other people think or about what could happen if… We present ourselves as this perfectly put together package. We won’t take any risks because we might fail and then how would that look? When we were kids we wanted to grow up so badly… And look at us now. Just look at us!
Dad in control
When I think of control, I think of my dad. I imagine a time my family went to Wilson Lake. We went to Wilson Lake every summer. But this time was different. I was finally old enough to try waterskiing. We got out on my Aunt Barbie’s boat and she said it’s best that someone demonstrate how to water-ski before I jumped out there. So my dad, the athlete and the “everything expert,” jumped into the water.
My dad had never waterskied before.
He put the skis on, grabbed the ropes and gave Uncle Ken the thumbs up. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned it. Dad fell. Ken gunned. Dad fell.
A self-proclaimed bodybuilder, my dad was very strong in those days. He had quite a grip. So, that wasn’t the problem. Being the gritty man he is, he tried again. And again, and again.
Each time he went up, his shoulders were hunched and his whole body looked incredibly stiff. We watched from the boat as he leaned back and forth. Then Aunt Barbie said, “He looks like he’s trying to drive the boat.” We all laughed. It really did. He was trying to control the boat from the back.
In only a few minutes, my dad held up the sign for stop and fell back. He didn’t want to ski anymore, he said it was “dumb” and “not fun” and “exhausting.”
Well yeah! I don’t know how familiar you are with waterskiing but… that’s not how you do it. You’re supposed to lean back and let the boat pull you.
He could not relinquish control to the boat. This is classic my dad. He always has to be cool and in control. But, control is an illusion! He had no chance in hell of controlling the boat, so why try?
Me in control
I can articulate my dad’s thoughts so well because, gulp, I’m the same way. I’ve struggled with the illusion of control my whole life as well.
When I was 5 months pregnant, I lost a baby due to a very rare genetic abnormality. Something happened to me when I lost that baby. I was devastated. It hurt more than anything I’d ever experienced. I was confused and I questioned my own mortality. My anxiety skyrocketed. I worried. I worried about my kids. I worried about me. I worried about my husband. I became obsessed with all my worry. At times, my anxiety got so bad that I had actual physical symptoms. Feet, hands numbing. Headaches. Heart palpitations. Digestive issues. Then I really had something to worry about!
I burned my hand once and it got infected. I thought, “Welp. This is how I die” It was about that bad.
I justified that if I think of every possible scenario that could go wrong, nothing will go wrong. Because what are the odds that the very thing your researching, obsessed over, will be the thing that goes wrong? Maybe on some level I thought that’s what happened with my baby. I was caught off guard. I wanted to prevent that from happening again. I was trying to control and predict my future, my family’s futures, with worry.
It felt like no one understood why I was so anxious. Most would say that I worry too much and laugh it off. I just stopped talking about it and started internalizing my worries.
That was not a way to live.
Having worries and negative thoughts is human. Like having hands. Hold your hands up like this. These are your negative thoughts. Bring those thoughts closer to your face. Closer. Closer. Now your negative thoughts are so close to you they are impairing your view of the world. This is how I was living… or not living.
I knew I had to let go. To relax. I was gripping those ropes so hard my hands were bleeding.
Then I was introduced to Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability. It came out at the perfect time for me. Brene says we should let go of certain things in order to cultivate a wholehearted life. Take a look at the list on the left, which of them describe you? Trace your finger to the right of that one to see what you could have if you let go of perfectionism, need for certainty, to always be in control.
With Brene’s help and meditation, I’ve worked through my anxiety (and it is work). One of my biggest struggles is to be who I am, where I am. I internalize and overanalyze too much.
Sometimes I try to emulate my sister. A woman who has more potential stressors in nearly every aspect of life than anyone I know. And yet, she has no problem letting go. I think the advice “laugh a little every day” started by someone who had met. When she’s having fun, everyone is having fun.
She doesn’t constantly worry about when her son will have his next seizure. She’s ALWAYS living in the moment. She doesn’t worry about being embarrassed, she gets right out on the dance floor and does the humpty dance at the company Christmas Party, with no shame. And people LOVE her for it.
By letting go of being cool and always in control, Dawn’s the coolest person in the room!
I think it is so important to let go of being in control and of what others think because it robs us of some pretty amazing and necessary experiences in life.
What’s more amazing than waterskiing??
Now take a look at you. Are you often in the moment, sitting back, letting boat pull you? Or are you gripping the ropes?