We have all done it. You are waiting for the elevator, you are in a hurry. You hit the up arrow. And then again, and again, and again. The elevator finally arrives, doors finally open. You select the desired floor then the door closing button, and again, and again, and again. Finally they close. Statistics show that 100% of the time hitting the button multiple times has no effect on decreasing wait times. (I actually made that statistic up, but I have a feeling I am pretty much right).
That’s the funny thing with control. It is perceived. We think that we are accomplishing something; holding things together, speeding the processing, lessening the blow. In reality however, we are simply wasting time hitting the placebo elevator button again and again and again.
Yesterday I mentioned that as I take ownership over my body and time I feel less of a need for control. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Control has for years been an issue for me; control of my diet, my weight, my appearance (physical, professional, personal), my schedule, my plan. I am a planner. I don’t just make plans, I craft them. They involve plan B and C and so forth. They are made in a choose your own adventure format with sub plans for each possible variable. My plans are four plans into the future. It’s exhausting and it’s a waste of time. I have for years been proud of my ability to plan. I have been proud that in my family I am the one with plans and goals, I am the one three steps in the future. My best friend and I make fun of our moms for their obsessive and time consuming planning when our families are together. We call it the “P” word and roll our eyes and mock them when they start to “P” word the day, the meals, etc. I am our mothers. Interestingly, it hasn’t been until recently that I have realized three things; this isn’t always a good thing, this isn’t good for my health, and this isn’t actually accomplishing anything.
I will make one thing clear off the bat, planning isn’t always bad, control has a time and a place and people who lack it are often found in bad situations, avoidable if they had thought before they leapt. I am not talking about this planning, this level of control. I am talking about the more chronic form of control. The one you finally realize is actually controlling you when for years you thought you were driving the truck full of checklists, reminders, and plans.
Back to the bad stuff. What I am slowly realizing through hard conversations and some self-evaluation is that my life is run by this control that I think I have. And while there can be benefits to control like I have said many times, there is one thing that I am learning is lacking in my control driven pre planned perfect on paper little world; peace.
I spent the whole last week working at achieving peace in all of my relationships. The big ones like family and significant other. The medium ones like close friends and coworkers. And the small but still significant ones like patient’s families or the guy that cut me off on the highway. The one relationship I have though that is completely lacking any sense of peace is the one with my-self. And that scares me. See, when I am so focused on planning and organizing, and creating and overcoming potential imagined obstacles, there is a complete lack of inner peace, a lack of that important feeling that regardless of what happens I am enough. I will survive. Maybe you can only keep peace with yourself one step at a time, so when I am three steps ahead, my peace is trailing behind me, trying to catch up. This is stressful on the mind and even worse for me, it’s stressful on the body. It seems silly to take an expensive risky shot every other week to treat a disease when I am not doing my part to keep my mind and body well.
I guess what I am trying to say is two things. First is that as I am actively making choices and changes about my physical and emotional health my desire for this control is diminishing. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and trying to figure out why this is. I am not positive that I have found my answer, but I have an idea. I think that often the desire for control comes from a place of helplessness, real or simply perceived. For me, so much of my life has felt out of my control; my health, how I am viewed by others, relationships. In this feeling of helplessness I have latched on to the desire to control what I can. I can almost promise that those of you with similar issues can agree that the more life spins away from your controlling grip, the more tightly you hold the things you can control, whether it is your diet, your miles run, or your performance at work. So now, as I am making active healthy choices to go to CrossFit and Yoga and to eat well, my helpless feeling is decreasing. I am finding a healthy way to make choices for myself without seeking control. I am satisfied and empowered. I feel at peace with myself, with my world, and with my future. I feel excited to take one step at a time, not five.
The second thing I am saying is that this isn’t easy. While I can feel small ways that my desire for control is diminishing I am aware that there is still work to be done to achieve peace. See, when things are good and going as planned, I am surviving on this high of feeling good, but the second something different is thrown in, the second the helpless feeling creeps in I begin to spiral back. Breaking this cycle takes works. A friend recently told me she wished she could share a helping of her ‘Peace’ with me. How wonderful would that be? If it could only be that easy! But it isn’t, it is work, hard work. But I am willing to put the work in because the outcome is pretty appealing.
So here I am, taking on yet another challenge, and inviting you to join me. I am going to work as hard as I have for peace with others to achieve some peace with me. To recognize that the control I crave isn’t real and that letting going of it is what will bring me peace. I will hit the elevator button once and wait, patiently.
As I have discussed my thoughts on this with a few close friends and family members this week the serenity prayer has come up multiple times. So I will close with it today. You may not be familiar with the full version, so I have included it all.
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it;
Trusting that You will make all things right
If I surrender to your will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.