Sunday, October 9, 2011

I'm not a control freak; I just need to have a handle on everything. All the time.

OK, OK. I'm a control freak. But I'm not proud of it. And I really don't know how to change it.

I'm not sure when it all started. I think I was always relatively ambitious growing up, but I always thought that being that way was just "what you did". I always lived on my own, managed my meager amounts of money and took care of what needed to be taken care of. "Independent", I called it. I mean, what else was I going to do?  

Maybe that's when it started - when I took independence a little too far and took such control of my life (ha... I didn't even realize I typed that) that it started being more of a curse than a blessing.

Oh, it comes in handy. I see a lot of obstacles as challenges because it's a lot easier to sit around and try to find a solution to the problem than it is to wallow in it. Although, I do my fair share of wallowing, too. And if I do have to ask someone for help or somehow give up some control, I feel weak - like I couldn't handle it. And giving up control means that the outcome may not be how I would do it, and I may not even know when it will be done. So to eradicate that angst, it's just easier to keep it all to myself.

Case in point #1:  I used to get upset with my ex-husband because I would ask him to do something and he seemed to never get around to doing it. At one point he said to me, exasperated, "I don't do it because by the time I get around to it you've already DONE it!"

Point taken.

Up until now, I always thought control has served me well. It's made me self-sufficient and helped me feel empowered. It's given me something to hold onto when my world seems to be spinning. But I've also discovered it's starting to take its toll.

Case in point #2:  My son is at that age where he is starting to hang out more with friends - friends I don't know and whose moms I've never met. He's gone for hours and I have to trust that he's where he says he is. I have no idea what's going on with his schoolwork other than checking his grades on the school website. I've never heard of three quarters of the people he has friended on Facebook. And he has more email addresses than I can even keep track of.

That drives me insane. Not that he's doing anything wrong, just that I can't VERIFY this stuff. I don't have control of it. I'm not dropping him off at his friend's house and hanging around for coffee with the mom. I'm not on the PTC of the high school. I suppose I could be, but I think he would hate that. It's time to try to let go a little bit. I can't possibly have control over the choices he makes, good or bad. And at this point, not only is it not a good idea for my own mental health, it's not good for him, either. HE has to take the control, and I have to sit in the passenger seat like some Driver's Ed teacher and just apply the brake on my side of the car if it becomes absolutely necessary.

And that's hard. Because I am so tempted to just lightly ride the brake the WHOLE time, just to be safe.

Case in point #3: I was telling a good friend today about a relationship I have, and some issues that had occurred recently. I admitted I was probably too independent and controlling for my own good. She asked me, "What do you think would have happened if you gave up a little of that control and independence?" That gave me pause, and the only response I could think of was, "Then I wouldn't be who he fell in love with. I would be needy, and that would make me feel vulnerable."

Sooooo.... THAT'S it. I don't want to feel vulnerable. It makes me wonder - does my mom feel vulnerable? She is one of the most independent (and a little controlling) people I know, yet she doesn't pump her own gas or go to the ATM. My dad does that. Doesn't make her less of a person in my eyes. As I see it, he takes care of her - that's what he does. So why can't I do that - let someone take care of me? Why can't I find that balance? And does it even exist?

What I find so funny is that some people - who don't know me well - apparently think I have it so together. Maybe that's the "control" aspect of my personality coming out. In my head, I feel very, very out of control, so maybe I just ACT like I'm in control to feel more... in control.


They say that when you feel out of control, the best thing to do is to accomplish one, small thing. Fold a basket of laundry. Clean out a junk drawer. Wash a window. If you've been to my house, you know it's virtually spotless most of the time. Enough said.

There has to be a happy medium with this control thing. There has to be a way to have enough of a handle on life without having to take my hands completely off the wheel. Maybe that's what I'll try to accomplish in the second half of my 40's - taking my foot off the gas and pushing the cruise control every once in awhile - and just focus on keeping my eyes on the road.

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