It is probably not a surprise to anyone around me that I love control. I have my digital calendar always open on my laptop and phone, plus a paper calendar where I record the smallest daily details and to-dos. On my bedside table, I keep a stack of pens and post-it notes so that I can easily write down reminders and errands and middle-of- the-night thoughts without having to reach too far.
I prefer to go into an event knowing the timeline of events, who will be in charge, and what the point of every activity is. I don’t like to aimlessly sit around at meetings, never really getting to the point. At small group every other week, I have to bite my lip to keep from hurrying the conversation along. My mind is like an invisible stopwatch, recording all of the wasted seconds and meaningless moments.
In many situations, I think of this tendency to organize and control as a skill. I’m naturally a hard worker and self-driven, and I enjoy seeing results in my own work, as well as in those around me. There is something to be said for effective spreadsheets, checking things off a list, and achieving set goals. You can’t get very far with your dreams if you can’t manage your time or actions. Results come from work.
But – and there is a really big “but” here – control can also limit.
You might have predictable, measurable outcomes when you control everything around yourself (although, I hate to tell you, life happens anyway and just laughs at your idea of control), but you miss out on so much that life has to offer you when you let a list of rules restrict your life. The moments that have meant the most to me in my life have happened when I have squashed the voice inside my head whining to be in charge and instead let life naturally flow around me.
The one thing a checklist cannot guarantee you is human connection. When you make it a process to regulate every moment around you, you miss out on bonds being formed, unity growing – the open rawness of human vulnerability. I’ve found myself “scheduling” deep conversations with my fiancé in the past, instead of letting our plans get messy if we need to sit down and be real with one another when we should have been grocery shopping.
What can be tricky about letting go is you also have to LET GO. You are no longer the driver, the regulator, the one in command. And that, my friend, is often really uncomfortable. If you are used to every minute being scheduled, every emotion having a time slot, it’s going to be pretty awkward in the beginning when you finally stop supervising your own life.
Giving into freedom often means disappointing people. I don’t run the tightest schedule anymore, and friends sometimes miss the expected “always in control Reeve.” I just tell them she’s on a much-needed vacation.
What makes something uncomfortable is the fact that whatever we are experiencing is new, strange. It’s okay to feel unsettled by something. I’ve even started to enjoy the feeling of not being in charge, not being the time keeper, not having a schedule every second of the day. Remember that uncomfortable does not equal bad or wrong, it just means you’re trying
something new – like spicy fajitas or kickboxing.
Lean into the uncertainty, the unknown. Let yourself be okay with not predicting the future. Have someone – a spouse or friend – who will gently remind you when your hands are starting to cling too firmly onto your own plans. Remind yourself that you miss out on so much more when you box yourself in. The irony is, even when we think we are predicting the future by our own control, not a single one of us knows how anything is going to turn out. Embrace the world of possibilities that is at your fingertips.
In the midst of order, find time to be free. Maybe right now in your life you have to schedule most moments. Perhaps you are struggling, in a tight season, and it feels like letting go means everything will come clattering to the ground. Maybe giving up control is too big of a step today – that’s okay. But find just five minutes in your day to be free. For me, that means turning on my favorite classic rock jams and dancing around energetically (read: like an elephant), letting my body move any which way it wants to. Counterbalance the things that need to be scheduled and ordered and regulated with time to let the sun splay across your face, your eyelids grow heavy reading, the taste of rich chocolate melting in your mouth.
Be present in the familiar, mundane days that end small and ordinary but were fully lived. That is where true life is found.