All You Can Do Is Control Yourself…Sometimes.

i like control.

it’s an understatement, but one that i have worked to soften & disarm for most of my adult life. and that effort has been slowly changing my quality of life for the better.

at work, i pick my battles. i try hard to recognize that others might need or want to get to the end goal differently than i do. in life pursuits, i anchor strongly into the reminder that some of the best outcomes in my life have come from the random and uncontrolled moments. sometimes i have to breathe deeply and remember that i don’t like myself as much when my control-freak natureĀ is in the driver’s seat.

all that should be tempered against the fact that i have very purposely crafted a life where i have put controls in place for a lot of things, from minimizing commitments and distractions that don’t add value, to gardening and cooking to remain active in what goes into my body.

i guess you can say the mantra that i live by is “control what you can (that is healthy), and let go of the rest.” and when i’m really twitchy or hurt, i try to always come back to “the only thing you can control is how you respond.”

except…the last handful of years has humbled me in what i thought was an absolute truth.

in personal relationships, it’s been my touchstone and it has worked for me: decide what *i* can do when i’m unhappy or in conflict and know that that is all i *can* control. others will always make the decisions they need to for themselves, and things may or may not resolve as i would like. it doesn’t remove the pain, but it usually stops me from thrashing around too much in a situation that i can’t control and to more quickly get to the other side.

but a few years ago, i experienced a fundamental shift in a deep friendship, and my “control myself” adage just fell to shreds. it took a long time for me to even recognize that i wasn’t able to use my usual coping mechanisms, and to stare the pain, confusion, and grieving in the face. i just couldn’t “control” the emotions i was experiencing, and it was startling.

i had worked through the logic. i understood intellectually where i needed to land to move into a new paradigm. but there was nothing i could do for the emotions that just had to work themselves out. instead of control, i found that i needed patience with myself…i needed to just give myself permission to be where i was and feel what i was feeling, and just wait at the gates with next steps once i was ready for logic and control.

it’s still frustrating to feel it playing out for so long. i periodically send an Emissary of Control in to see if my emotions are ready, and i think i’m starting to see some progress. but it’s complicated.

so i sit here, bemusedly watching the no-longer-so-smug i-figured-out-controling-my-control self digest this new life lesson. sometimes you can’t even control your own reactions. it’s ok…it’s life and it’s messy.

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