A Confession about Control
Yesterday, I sat down to do a guided meditation on releasing our fears to the Universe. A woman’s soothing voice began speaking through my headphones, and she instructed me to visualize an empty basket in front of me. I pictured the basket as brown and woven, with an arched, golden handle and yellowish trim. It sat in front of my crossed legs, still. The woman’s voice now told me to think of the things that weighed on me – my unmet desires, my fears, my troubles, my deepest wants and needs. Once I had them all in my mind’s eye, I was to deposit them, one by one, into the basket. I sighed with relief – this seemed easy and helpful. I simply thought of each worry, and placed it out of my mind, and into the basket. In went any struggles with my business, in went my broken relationships, in went my doubts about the future and my mistakes from the past. I watched them all go in, and quickly, the round basket filled up. Next, the woman’s voice spoke in a stronger tone – she told me to envision the contents of the basket as a golden ball of light, and an angel would be coming down to collect it. As I saw the angel hovering above the basket, I was instructed to let her take it, and then watch it all fly away.
Suddenly, I felt uncomfortable – wait, I didn’t know she was going to take everything I had put into the basket. Maybe I hadn’t thought this through. In that moment, I realized, I wasn’t ready to completely let some of my fears go. If I let the angel take them away, how would I control what happened to them? By releasing what I loved and feared to the Universe, how would I force the outcomes I desired? I felt my fears deepen, and I understood this was the entire point of the meditation – to surrender, even those things that have caused me the most pain.
I’ve never thought of myself as a control freak. In fact, most people would describe me as easy-going and carefree. But I suppose my level of control really depends on what is actually at stake. When my boys were babies, I had complete control over their lives. I was exhausted, overwhelmed and unsure, but still, they were mine. My days and nights revolved around the baby’s needs and schedule – rocking and holding, nursing and comforting, all of it came from me – and for the most part, only me. Then, little by little, as they grew older, I had to relinquish. It started with my first day back at work – handing them over to the sitter while I ventured out to my office. That day, I felt like a fraud, like something major was missing from me, maybe a piece of my own body. With great relief, I came home to find my baby happy and healthy, and still there, not actually missing. Then, on my oldest son’s first day of Kindergarten, I realized, his world is no longer up to me. Someone else will be teaching him and guiding him, and I may not always agree with the opinions. Fellow kids will affect his sense of self. Teachers will impart knowledge. Daily routines will dictate his level of responsibility in the outside world. For those 7 hours, he is out of my hands. The grip I had on him as a baby has loosened, whether I like it or not.
I remember being little and sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table. I am around 10 years old and I am writing something with a pencil.
“Your grip is too tight.” Grandma says.
I look up at her, and then at the pencil I am holding in my right hand.
“You’re grabbing the pencil too tightly,” she continues – “I should be able to easily glide the pencil out of your hand, even while you are writing.”
Grandma tugs at the top of the eraser, but the pencil remains stuck in my death grip. Even with some wiggling, she can’t make it budge. Grandma goes on to explain that I don’t need to hold on so tightly in order to write. Writing only requires enough pressure to mark up the page, not that I grab on so fiercely that my fingers begin to turn white as I press the lead onto the paper. I look at the pencil and wonder, how come I never knew that?
I’m now back in my meditation and I think about all the things in my life I’ve tried to control – all the things I’ve held onto so tightly so they can’t be yanked away. My relationships, my body, my career, my children, my home, dinner parties, holidays, family members, friendships. I become exhausted thinking about it. Forcing and demanding control over everything doesn’t allow you to really hold on – that’s an illusion. Eventually, when someone yanks hard enough, the pencil will go flying out of your hand – but not without a flurry of excitement.
And that’s where I am – in the middle of an upheaval and dust is flying everywhere. The things I hold dear and have been trying to control are being yanked away, and I’m in the center of the storm. But, no matter how hard I’ve tried to control something in the past, no matter how hard I’ve attempted to manipulate the outcome, it’s never too late to release that control. It’s never too late to discover and accept the sweet relief of surrender.
Surrendering doesn’t mean to get lazy or to stop trying. Surrendering means to act anyway, but trust in the outcome – no matter what it is.
The point of any situation is to be happy, and to have fun. Grasping and clinging gives you the illusion of control. But, you only need to hold the pencil tightly enough in order to write. And that’s not very tight at all