Hi, my name is Denise and I am a Control Freak.
Well, in a recovering sort of way, actually.
I first recognized my need for control when my firstborn took her first step. I followed closely behind as she toddled, arms outstretched, ready to catch her when she fell. I know this is a normal thing parents do, to protect their unsteady child, but the problem I had is that my arms were stuck in this position until my kids were in their teens.
My need for control didn’t end there though. I tried to govern everything else in my life as well. I needed my house to be perfectly clean. I was fanatical about going to the gym. I was obsessed over every new wrinkle. I worried about what people thought of me. It was all so exhausting!
My sister, Darlene, was a Control Freak too, until shortly before she died.
As she lay in her hospital bed, prepped for an emergency surgery the doctors hoped would save her life, Darlene seemed peaceful and relaxed. My family and I were all very surprised by this. Here was a woman who couldn’t sleep at night because she had so much on her mind; all the things she had to do, all the people she had to worry about, all the accidents waiting to happen. I felt confused by this. Where was the fear and panic now? Why wasn’t she trying to control this when it actually meant something for once? Not just something but everything! I felt angry. Why wasn’t she fighting for her life?
She never woke up from the surgery. Her husband told us afterwards that she had known she was going to die—she had told him so before being wheeled away – calmly. I guess she had known this was beyond her jurisdiction and so had simply surrendered to it. A few months after she died, when my grief had settled into a clumsy form of acceptance, I tried to put myself inside her slippers on that fateful day.
What had it felt like to have let it all go – to have given up the never-ending rat race?
I thought it probably felt really good.
I decided not to wait until my last moments to find out. I strapped those slippers on and surrendered – just a little bit at first. I was immediately uncomfortable with it. I felt powerless, like I had no control, which, I guess, is the point. But it didn’t take me long to realize that there was a lot of freedom in letting go and it became easier the more I did it.
There are some things we can control, like what we eat and whether or not we choose to exercise. We can choose how we treat others and how we allow them to treat us. Basically, we can control our actions and reactions, and that’s about it.
The most important lesson I learned is that living in fear (aka: control) is not really living at all. It’s more like tiptoeing around life (when you’re not flat-out running away from it). It was empowering to give up the “power” I thought I had.
If I could, I would give my sister a hug of epic proportion and thank her for leaving me with this invaluable gift of freedom. I know my kids are much happier too, because I no longer follow them around, waiting for them to fall.