Folding towels, hot dogs, and control.

Good morning, dear Reader. After about four hours of excellent sleep, I’m wide awake this morning. The rain that really isn’t rain – kinda sad little drizzle – is a tad bit disappointing. I’m a huge fan of thunderstorms, so I’m disenchanted by this so-called rain Weatherman Ron put so much faith in. Nonetheless, it’s supposed to also end up cold, so whatever the rain lacks in fierceness today will possibly result in nature’s last laugh: Ice. Blech.

Anyway, as February comes to an end, we are closing out our little look into letting go of the illusion of control. I hope I have given you some insight this month into how dangerous the illusion of control can be for some of us. I’ve certainly taken on a new perspective which is: None us have any control over much of anything.

{Shrug}. Sure. We can plan, manage projects and tasks, and attempt to do all the things right…and yet…life still happens despite our best efforts. I guess it really is up to each individual to determine if life is happening to you…or for you. Hmmm. I’ve often heard “If you want to make God laugh…just make a plan.” I’ve also heard “Life can be summed up like this: Not what I fucking planned.” Both true. I think it’s okay to make a plan…and it’s okay to not be attached to the outcome. You can hope for the best and plan for the worse at the same time. In other words…Fate favors the prepared, but Fate reserves the right to do whatever she wants. Amiright?

There’s a big difference, though, between planning and controlling. Controlling anything – an outcome, a person, a situation – most likely will not end well. So. Shall we discuss this a bit?

Grab a drink. Settle in. My mind is whirling with examples of how we all try to subtly – or not so much – try to control others. But if I can offer you anything today it is this simple rule of thumb: You do you…and I’ll do me.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who asked me what I thought about the transgender movement. I thought about that for a minute and responded, “I don’t I have enough information about it to have an opinion one way or another.” I mean…it’s not like I don’t careI just don’t know. I, personally, wouldn’t want to be a man (gross), and I have no reference as to what led up to the decision to change gender. But I also know that the decision is probably a difficult one; one that may result in a loss of employment, relationships, and at times, a sense of self. That can’t be easy to go through, I suppose, even to satisfy one’s heart. So while I don’t ‘get it’…I don’t have to. It’s not my decision. I can certainly be empathetic, though. And, let’s admit it, empathy is probably the most underutilized emotion on the planet.

I think many of us would be a lot more relaxed if we just left other people the hell alone. I mean, sure, if someone is threatening your way of life – for real, not the make-believe stuff in your head – then I suppose it’s essential to take a stand. But, let me ask you this…what harm does it do to any of us if…I don’t know…we pay black women the same amount we pay white men when they hold the same position and have the same qualifications? Is it hurting anyone to just let that happen? Most wars – big country-wide ones and the ones within ourselves – start over someone else trying to control us.

I once found myself in the middle of an argument over the best brand of hot dogs. This conversation was so ridiculous that I looked around for cameras. I seriously thought I was being punked. But I wasn’t. And ultimately, this ‘discussion’ was the catalyst that ended a thirty-plus-year friendship. Yup. All over a hot dog. (Mustard only. Ahem.)

But you know what? It wasn’t about the hot dogs at all.

It was about control.

And we all do itall the time. We just might not realize we do it. I’ll publicly admit to you that I am guilty on all counts of trying to control the outcome of a situation. Who among us hasn’t told others there is a ‘right’ way to…I don’t know…fold towels…put toilet paper on the roller…manage money…apply make up…display tattoos…tie shoes…wash dishes. Sure, everyone has preferences and pet peeves. I know I do (Ahem. Being told how to do something I’ve been doing sufficiently for fifty years is one of them).

But…newsflash: There is more than one way to Philadelphia.

I used to say this all the time when I was teaching. It started because I said, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” which grossed out one of my students, who had clearly never sat in the same room with a Southerner. So, in order to be socially correct (But…does anyone actually skins cats??? Maybe…in Webster County.) Anyway. That statement turned into…

There is more than one way to Philadelphia.

There is the longest route, the shortest, and the most scenic…you can drive, take a plane, walk…you get my drift. If the END GOAL is to get to Philadelphia by 8 a.m. on Monday morning, then who the fuck cares how you get there? Right? Some of you still may choose to take the scenic route and drive…and you will need to leave a bit earlier than those of you who decide to take the more direct way courtesy of American Airlines. With this silly metaphor, my point is, why do you care so damn much how I get to Philly as long as I get there on time and we can get a cheesesteak? How, for example, does the tattoo on my back or my ill-directed love for Taylor Swift’s music threaten your way of life? It doesn’t. And neither does my preference for Nathan’s hot dogs. (A great opportunity to give you a bonus song!)

We forget what drew us to an individual, even in our closest relationships. We start trying to make them into an extended version of ourselves. We do this with our kids, we do it with our significant others, we do it to the people we work with. And by ‘we’ I am not excluding myself from this scenario.

So, to close today, how about this….how about you take a peek at where you are trying to control someone else – even unintentionally – and I’ll do the same. How about, instead of implying that they do it your way, you ask why they do it their way to better understand them? You might learn something about them…or learn a better way of doing things. I recently asked my fella why he always puts the lid down on the toilet when it is not in use. This is just something that we don’t do in my home – currently. His answer was valid. Totally made sense to me. Never thought of it like that at all before. Like me most of the time, you may simply shrug and say, “Hmmm. Ok.” and continue doing it the way you like to do it. Or you might learn something and adapt to a new or better way of doing things. My friend, Bonnie, taught me how to wash produce, dry said produce, and store it in large jars in my refrigerator. Never even occurred to me to do this. Did she control me? No, it was a teachable moment. Now, if she had said her way was the best way and that I’m doing it all wrong and always had…that’s control. It’s subtle. But it is.

Here’s your song today, Friends. I encourage you to take an opportunity to just let something slide today. I encourage you to just let people be – and wish them well even if you don’t understand them. I also encourage you to stand up for yourself when someone tries to tell you that the way you fold underwear is not up to their standards. In fact, at that moment, I encourage you to invite them to fold ALL the underwear from today until the last day of their life. That might stop the whole ‘you fold underwear wrong’ conversation, right?

PS…I’m taking a little break from these types of posts to embark on something new called “Flash Fiction”. I will most likely post on Friday’s (Flash Fiction Friday – catchy, huh?) so that I can get in the ‘finishing my novel mindset’. So, watch for those.

PSS…If you liked this post and thought others might, too, then feel free to share on social media. Please and thank you!