I have to make a confession. My name is Deb, and I’m a control freak. It’s a serious problem. I have been since I was a little girl, and trying to balance life when you are constantly trying to be in control can be a wicked challenge. The start of my school year has been a bit of a mess, and this has caused an unusual amount of stress. So when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I try to examine what I can do to minimize the feelings of anxiety and also what I can do to “get it together.” Being a control freak, believe it or not, can have it’s positives. It typically makes you more organized and a better planner. And it also can make you a mean “multitasker.” However, control freaks are a rare breed in that we have a very hard time taking help from others, even when it is offered. I know that my poor husband loses his mind when I am in “crazy lady” mode and he offers to help, then I continue to hover because I want everything done in a certain way. It is also hard on my kids, but I’ll touch on that a bit more in a minute.
I got to thinking, what is it about me that requires that I maintain so much control? To figure this out I truly believe that you have to go back to the root, which typically began at some point in childhood. I had a mom that struggled with illness most of my life. She had epilepsy and I had no control over when the next seizure might occur. It was a scary thing to live with as a child and I think it’s where all of the control issues began. I tried to control all of the things that I could in my own environment. I controlled the cleanliness of everything. I controlled where I put my toys, my shoes, my clothes, my school bag, and my papers. I constantly was cleaning up other people’s spaces as well. Wherever I went, I found ways to organize and control the environment around me. With six kids and a dog in our house it was often messy and disorganized, and now that I am a mom I realize that that was not my mother’s fault. I imagine she was overwhelmed most of the time and she had to let things go or it would have driven her crazy. She had to pick her battles and since cleaning up twenty-four hours a day was not an option, I know she let a lot go. My grandmother’s house, on the other hand, was always extremely organized and clean, so that was a space that I actually didn’t try to control. It was a space that I felt safe and comfortable in. It’s so weird how something as simple as a clean house can give you so much peace. But it also makes perfect sense. It let me breathe. It let me have a moment without worry. It gave me a break from trying to maintain so much control and that right there is a lesson in what being a control freak can do to our kids.
As I examine this whole control issue of mine, I think back to times when my kids were younger and I wish I would have chilled out a long time ago. The most interesting part of being a control freak is that when you think about it we actually have almost no control at all. Trying to maintain constant control brings worry. We worry about our kids, our pets, our family, our relationships, our jobs, and countless other things, and it’s all because we are trying to “direct” what’s going on. When you really think about it the only control we have are the choices that we make. We can choose to have a good attitude or not. We can choose to respond to others and events in a positive way or not. We can choose to let things go, or we can choose to try and be superhuman. I actually laughed at myself the other day trying to rationalize a situation at work, thinking how I could manipulate it, then I got smacked in the forehead! “Deb, you literally have no control here, let it go!!!!”
When we try to control every aspect of our life, it leads us to believe that no one can do things better than us. No one is better at cleaning than me, no one is better at cooking than me, no one is better at taking care of the kids than me, no one is better at doing my job than me. WOW! That is a lot of pressure. It’s so much pressure that it will likely cause many breakdowns over time, and this is what we are teaching our kids. We’re teaching them that we must be perfect. And, my friends, we are far from perfect. As much as I like to think that no one can do my job better than me, I’m here to tell you that there are countless others that could do it, and probably do it better. There are countless others that have me beat. Now this does not mean that I’m not good at all of the things that I do. I know that I am. But much more, it means that when we realize someone else can do what we do, and do it well, it frees us from needing to have all of that control. It lets us breathe, like being that little girl in my Grandmother’s house. It allows us to relax and remember that we do NOT have to be perfect. Do you want a sure fire way to cause a total breakdown in your children? Just keep showing them that what other’s think is more important than what they think. Keep giving them the example that everything must be controlled at all times. The pressure is too great. We need to stop showing them an example that is flawed. They will implode!! I want my kids to be strong and independent. I want them to have success. I want them to be self-reliant, but not at the cost of their sanity and not at the cost of them thinking they have to be perfect.
I’m sad when I look back and realize that I didn’t let things go. I’m sad that I missed out on moments in their lives, and quite honestly in my own life. I was so busy worrying about what other people’s perceptions may be, that I forgot that the only perception we should be worried about is that of those we love the most. Trying to control everything is a farce and you will surely miss out on many priceless life moments if you don’t simply let it go. Take time off from work, it will be there when you get back. Take time to really listen to your children, they are so damn smart. Take time to leave the dishes in the sink and sit longer at the table. It’s where the best conversations happen. If the job you are in is controlling your life, maybe it’s time to step back and make an adjustment. Tomorrow is not promised so think about that; when you look back, what do you want people to say about you? I for one don’t want to be remembered for rushing around like a chicken with my head cut off having missed out on special time with my family and friends. I want my family to know that I was there for them and that they were more of a priority than the laundry. I want to be thought of fondly as the good teacher that I was, but also know that someone else came in and did an amazing job after me.
So there it is, confessions of a control freak. I can’t promise that I am not going to fail at this struggle, but I am certainly going to continue to work on it and on myself. I hope that maybe some things that I said spoke to you. Take it from me, don’t miss out. Let things go, even just a little, and it will make life so much better for not only you, but all the people that you love. And that’s today’s dish.