The alternate title option was How I Found Happiness by Getting Old, Quitting my Jobs, Becoming a Lazy Bum, Boozing it Up, Not Taking on Other People’s Shit, and Taking Life Lessons from Facebook but instead we’ll go with the one about losing control. Because that’s really how it started.
I used to be one helluva control freak.
Even if you know me in real life this might come as a bit of a surprise, I like to think I hide it pretty well. Or maybe I’m still in denial. Either way, I have resigned to being out of control. And I’m loving it.
I’ve felt and seen this change in myself occur over the last several years but a conversation with my mom really hit home how far I’ve come.
Mom: No offense but you used to be uptight.
Me: I know! I used to be such a control freak, I’m much less uptight and controlling now, it’s great.
Mom: You’re not just less…you’re not at all!
We all know we can’t hide things from our mothers.
I don’t agree with her that I’ve lost all those tendencies but I have definitely released a lot of need and desire to control every situation.
How did I do this?
- I turned 30. I really think this was a huge help. There is a lot of that adolescent angst, confusion, and insecurity still present through the 20’s, at least there was for me. At 30 I decided it was time to grow up and part of growing up for me was to recognize that life is totally out of control and beautiful because of it.
- I moved out of the country. This actually preceded turning 30 but definitely helped the process. Living in Peru was terrifying and humbling and very low key. I felt like I really lost my identity without the comfort of my mother tongue and culture and dance and a community. My work schedule was really light and thus I learned to chill, not something I was that good at before when I was always pushing myself to be productive and busy because that’s what made me feel in control.
- I stopped exercising so damn much. I love exercise. Love, love, love. But I was stuck in a cycle of guilt and stress and control with it. I needed to do a certain amount per day or I felt like I wasn’t taking care of myself and living up to my potential. And, yes, I was worried I’d get fat. Funny thing is, when I slowed down a little and started listening to my body more rather than forcing it through a carefully calculated regimen I lost weight and leveled out to a new happy weight and shape. I still move most days of the week but if I don’t it’s because I don’t want to or it doesn’t fit into my day and I don’t give it a second thought.
- I started drinking more. (Disclaimer! Definitely not suggesting anyone try this at home!). Hear me out on this one. I used to be very cautious with drinking because I didn’t want to say or do something silly or stupid. I didn’t want to be out of control. What I found out when I started to loosen up a little is that silly is fun! Drunks can be obnoxious and alcoholism is no laughing matter but for me it has been helpful to see that my world doesn’t shatter if I allow myself to let down my guard and get a little stupid every once in a while.
- I started separating myself from others. I used to take on other people’s shit way too much. This would manifest as serious micro-management. Call me overly empathetic but the truth is more like I wanted to have control over everything and everyone, all the time, and it caused me stress and anxiety. If a friend or a loved one or a co-worker or a stranger chews with their mouth open or is rude or gains 25 pounds or makes odd life choices it has nothing to do with me. I can be a good friend but I don’t need to see their actions or choices as a reflection of my own.
- I saw a Facebook status update. “Too blessed to be stressed” was just the swift kick in my pants I needed to get over myself. I later discovered that this is also the title of an evangelical television show but I chose not to associate that with my own personal revelation; I am too blessed to be stressed! And the desire to control everything was super stressing me out. So I let go. And I got happy.
I still sometimes catch myself winding up tight and trying to exert control over situations where it is either useless or completely unnecessary and unhelpful. When this happens I take a line from Sex in the City and “breathe and reboot” and allow myself to be blissfully, happily out of control.