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!

Fear, Faith, and Letting Go – Part 1

Good morning, dear Reader. I’ve been lying here for a good 45 minutes wondering where this so-called thunderstorm is that Weatherman Ron promised me. I’m one of those weird girls who loves me some good thunder and lightning, and this drizzle crap just isn’t gonna cut it. 

My need to control the weather is a great little segue into today’s post. We are just a few short weeks from ending February and wrapping up the topic of letting go of the need to control everything. I, the good little INTJ/Virgo combo, like order and structure, so you can probably imagine just how hard it is for me to practice what I preach when it comes to ‘trusting the process’. Letting go of the idea that I must control everything isn’t easy; I work at it daily. Just yesterday at work there was a big ol’ mess. It was incredibly frustrating because I didn’t create it, but I am responsible for fixing it. I wanted to wring the necks of the two parties pointing fingers at each other (It’s her fault; it’s his fault). It took every ounce of energy I had to not scream, “It’s both your fucking faults because you are both fucking idiots.” But, alas, I don’t think that displays much leadership, and two, I’m afraid if I continue to point out their incompetence, I’ll end up doing their jobs, too. So, I zipped my mouth and just trusted that the path to rectifying this entire mess would be the best route for me.

If you, like me, hold onto control for dear life and attach yourself to outcomes, then today’s post is for you. So, grab a drink and settle in. Let’s go into that a bit deeper. 

Like this mess at work, I would always push for things to happen the way I wanted them to go. I very much like to run the show. I know, in my heart, that things go much more smoothly when I allow everything to unfold naturally rather than forcing the outcome. I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan. I’m just saying maybe being attached to the outcome is really what is stirring the shit pot. You know?

To open ourselves up to many possibilities, we have to trust that we are okay no matter the circumstances. When we attach ourselves to what we deemed was the “right” path, these possibilities aren’t easy to see. Often, the direction we so desperately want to go is not the most valuable or productive one.

So why let go of the need to control everything? Well, for one, high blood pressure can lead to a stroke – so, there is that. But that’s a bit extreme. How about this: Letting go of control means more joy, freedom, peace, connection, and support.

I’ve drafted up ten ways to let go and surrender, but we are only gonna cover five here today. I’ll create a second post with the other five…you know…to keep you hanging. Let’s get started: 

1. Use imagery. When I start to notice my jaw clenching and my energy swept up into the vortex known to me as ‘the perfect outcome’, I start imagining other possible optimistic scenarios. In other words, using imagery can be the proverbial ‘Plan B’. I could quickly think of all the negative ones, too, but that’s not always helpful. If you think it might be then read on… 

2. Make a ‘fear’ list. The need to control the outcome is a huge source of anxiety for many of us, and most anxiety is rooted in fear. So, using the technique opposite of my first point, I ask myself, “What am I most afraid will happen?” We try to control things because we are scared about what might happen if we don’t. I once read that 90% of the things we worry about never come to fruition. That’s a ton of wasted energy, don’t you think?

3. Be present in the moment. The need to control (and the anxiety it brings with it) is all future-based. And, newsflash, ain’t none of us able to control the future. So, repeat after me: Presence conquers all. With presence, you can embrace gratitude. There is trust and faith that you will be taken care of by something more significant than you if you assume gratitude and live in the present moment. 

4. Get grounded. I know this is a very ‘hippie’ thing for me to say. Still, if you feel the need to control your environment, you live in a space that has yet to happen (i.e. “the future”). You have already attached yourself to expectations and set yourself up for disappointments. Focus on grounding yourself. Instead of sitting in front of your television, your phone, or computer try taking a walk in nature, calling a friend, or getting out of your home or office. I simply like to sit outside and listen to the birds and wind. The full moon last night offered a great backdrop for this grounding exercise. No birds, but definitely a few bats, and a lot of peace and quiet.

5. Embrace trust. Trust means belief. And belief means you honor and respect yourself. This is where your self-worth comes in, and you can let go of the need to control. I can tell you a million times to ‘trust the process,’ but it takes one brave muthafucka to actually do it. Are you willing to be brave?

I have more to share, but I need to close out this post today, so we’ll continue this over a drink in my next post. As always, I’m leaving you with a song – even though, clearly, only one of you ever listens to these things (#stats), but whatever. I’ve never been much of a Pearl Jam fan, but maybe that’s because I never heard this song until I searched for one to share with you today. I see another playlist in my future. So, yeah…Enjoy!

PS…If you loved this post and thought others might, too, then I’m shamelessly gonna ask you to share it on social media. Thank you!