“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – E. E. Cummings
I have a strong need to be in control. Examples:
- I plan gatherings, parties and vacations, down to the last detail.
- I tend to be a perfectionist and am my own worst critic.
- If you ask my opinion, I assume you want to know. I get irritated when you don’t take my advice.
- It’s difficult for me to trust.
- I drink socially, but I can count on one hand the times I ever felt drunk … and that feeling? Far from fun, try horrifying.
- I make lists for everything.
- It drives me crazy not to have enough to do.
- Conversely, while I love a day off with no schedule I only love them if they’re by my design. (I.E. sitting around waiting on someone else? Drives me c-r-a-z-y).
- I do not like to be the center of attention, unless it was my choice to be. Example: I’ve never thrown anyone a surprise party; I think they’re vile and I’d never want to be subjected to one. I know some people love them; it would be pure torture for me.
From an evolutionary standpoint, cultivating a sense of control over our environment ensures we will survive it. Do I need to be in control as much as I need a sense of control over the outcome?
I’ve been thinking a lot about life and my next steps. I asked myself, “What are you afraid of?” At first, I couldn’t think of anything. OK there’s the obvious big stuff that frightens most of us – war, an environmental disaster, something happening to my husband or children, etc. I realized that, for me, what I am most afraid of is lack of control over my being or my life.
It started young; I’m the youngest of five. My parents enjoyed a hobby (horse racing) that sometimes took them away from home. I remember being frightened when they weren’t there and more scared during the parties that were held with loud music and strange people in my house. I remember being told to go to bed even though I could hear the kids hooting & hollering in the room not far from mine. I think about the trouble my siblings sometimes got into, and my vows to not follow in their footsteps. So, instead, I became the good kid; the teen who could be left alone because she was always responsible. I became the friend who would drive her drunk boyfriend and his friends home because she kept a level head. I became everything .. to everyone else.
I created a façade for myself; someone who takes care of everyone else and I became an expert at it. Professionally, it helped that I am naturally organized and pay careful attention to detail. Making lists was rewarded. Soon, because I was responsible, on time, and someone others could count on, I was rewarded with more – more work, more responsibility, more to organize, more to care for, more to do. More.
During college, I didn’t date because I had three part-time jobs + a full time course load. Don’t get me wrong, I was no saint, I went dancing with friends and we drank a little and flirted a lot and had fun, but those times were few and far between. Consequently, I have very few memories of my college experience. What I do remember is always working, always being exhausted, always over-performing. What I do remember of that time is intense loneliness and a desire to be something.
At 21, I left Canada and came to the United States. I had $178, a guitar and a few friends. Auspiciously, I planned on staying for a season; I’ve been here 27 years (and I’m a citizen now .. yay!). It never occurred to me to fail, and I didn’t. But now, years later, I can see how terrified I was. I was so afraid to fail; afraid that all my big dreams wouldn’t come true and I’d be one of those girls that came slinking home to her parents with no job and no prospects. And to me, failure was to be feared.
What’s scaring me today is one word: change. I am turning 48 in a few days and while I am not afraid of aging, I am unfamiliar with who this woman is. I have always been able to count on myself. Now, someone else is showing up and, what’s more confusing, I don’t always recognize her. I don’t know if I can trust her.
Naively, I assumed that I’d become more patient, more giving, and more, well, everything, as I grew older. Meh .. not so much. With my grandkids? Absolutely. Other’s idiosyncrasies? Best I just step away. “Pick the hill you want to die on” is a quote I love but, of late, I’ve picked unfamiliar hills and walked away from known ones. Weird.
My life is full and, most of the time, I’m content. I’m thankful that I’ve cleared out the toxic people to make room for the good. I eat well. I exercise regularly now. I sleep great. I listen. I express my ideas. I share and I pull back.
Things are coming together and changing all at the same time.
I don’t know. But I do know this: while some of what I’m experiencing feels foreign to me, I’m trying my hardest not to be afraid. I’m trying to just have faith and not be so worried about controlling the outcome. I no longer have to be in survivor mode. I will get through this; I just don’t know who I’ll be on the other side.
Have you struggled through a transition of late? Please share.