My Fear of Losing Control
Once in a while, I do something that is strange enough to make me step back and take a good, hard look at it. We develop patterns we don’t recognize until someone points them out.
When I see I’ve been acting out because I’m trying to remain in control, I realize it’s time to make a change.
I’m noticing my fear of losing control is getting out of control.
How did I get in this mess, anyhow?
It might have come from leaving home at 16 and being the responsible working person in a group of hippie-type hangers-on that I lived with for 4 or 5 years.
I ended up moving into a house with my boyfriend, who was a primo con artist and essentially a charming deadbeat.
I worked, he worked the angles. I paid the bills, he spent the money. A great partnership. That might have triggered a need to control my surroundings.
There was the year we moved 5 times because this same boyfriend had a deal with a house flipper. We would move into a house that was a dump, clean it up, do some repairs and then move to the next one so he could flip it.
I always had a full-time office job during these years and didn’t have a car, or my driver’s license. I was 23, 24 at the time, so I took transit.
This was in a city in Canada, in the winter. I was up at the crack of dawn standing in the cold, waiting for a bus, sometimes two, then the sky train into the city centre to get to work.
I did it to buy the deadbeat boyfriend groceries (and beer), while he kept a roof of sorts over our heads, sometimes with feral cats living in the basement.
Perhaps some of my need for control comes from that kind of experience.
Being a single mom in my thirties reinforced my need to remain in control because there was no one else to rely on.
I was it. The whole enchilada, the buck stopped with me.
I was both ‘good cop’ and ‘bad cop’ in one big ‘queen of follow-through’.
There was no other choice. I had a great girlfriend who was also a single mom and we would work all kinds of parenting conundrums out together, but in the end, I was the one making the decision.
It was really difficult for me when the boys got older and moved away (as they should) and became independent (as they should). I worried too much and wanted so much to be there in their lives, helping, cooking, cleaning, and giving advice, all that smothering mothering behavior that drives young adults crazy.
When you try too hard to control things in your life, it makes it difficult to let go and create. When I discovered I was avoiding making art because of this need to be in control, I realized I had to make a big change.
Letting go is a process.
I’ve learned this the hard way.
It’s not something that you can decide to do one day. It takes time. You have to watch your behavior and notice when you are in someone else’s business.
It’s not enough to just notice. You have to see it and own up to it. Then you make a clear and honest decision that you are not going to do it anymore.
Sometimes it takes help from a friend or supportive spouse. They can help you see where you are still stepping over the line. A gentle suggestion can really help.
When you are stepping into someone else’s wheelhouse when you haven’t been asked, it’s intrusive. If it wasn’t for my spouse occasionally saying ‘let them figure it out’, I swear I’d still be in there, ‘’helping’’.
Letting go applies to other things in life as well.
Here are some examples:
- Being the ‘helper’. Doing things for people instead of letting them learn to do them on their own.
- An identity. Letting go of a well-paying job, with benefits. It was killing me.
- Youth. I’m getting older, which comes with its own set of things to let go of.
- Art supplies that I’ll never use.
- Clothing that no longer fits me.
- A couple of blogs that were a great experience but going no-where.
- A box of court documents I no longer need but was holding onto anyhow.
There are many more.
When my children were small, I secretly called myself the Queen of Follow-Through so I wouldn’t promise something and then not deliver. I wanted to teach them that their ‘word’ was important and they should stand by their word.
It was a matter of character.
I was so focused on being in control of my promises, I couldn’t change a decision. I remember the times I felt stuck but had to follow through on my ‘commitment’, even though I had changed my mind.
I’ve watched others make the same mistake, staying in a relationship or job well past the time they should have left just because they made a promise.
Sometimes I realize I’m still stuck in the ‘being in control’ mode. I’m working on letting that go and letting things fall where they may, but it is hard to change these deeply carved grooves in the middle of my life.
I’m better now.
I only wake up in a cold sweat once a week worrying about a random nightmare situation that I’ve imagined is occurring.
I catch myself before I volunteer to do everything in groups I belong to.
I sometimes change my mind. I try to do it without guilt.
I’m better now, I promise.
Now I send them baked goods in the mail; I don’t drop them off on their front step, ring the doorbell and hide behind a tree to see their face.
I’m better now. Now I only stalk them on Facebook — a single post, no matter how weird or strange is evidence. Evidence that they are breathing and doing ok.
Honest. I’ve let it go.
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