This is a work in progress, so bear with me …
Granted the last year and a half have been a little bumpy for me. If you read this space with any regularity, you know the details, so I won’t inundate/bore/depress you with them again. (If you’re new here, use the search box and type in “Leigh’s disease,” “CMT,” “Mom,” “stress” and “death” and you’ll get caught up fast. But don’t say you weren’t warned.) But it’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good, and I like to think that I’m learning a few things in the midst of it all.
And probably the most important thing I’m picking up is on letting go.
By nature, I’m a bit of a control freak. Add to that a whole lot of nurture — I’m also a child of divorce, a child of an alcoholic (my dad) and someone who spent time in American evangelicalism (thankfully not in the really legalistic end, but there were a few moments). Without realizing it, I became someone for whom control-freakiness was less a lifestyle choice than an addiction.
And since, when you surrender your life to God, He takes you seriously … He’s taken a great interest in beating that tendency out of me. (Okay, maybe “beating” is a little strong, but it feels like that sometimes. If you’ve got a better verb, pop it in the Comments section.) Because there are few things more ridiculous than surrendering to God while trying to hold onto the reigns yourself at the same time. Makes no sense. But old habits still die hard.
“They die hard”, I said — not “they never die.” And more and more, it seems like my control-freakhood — while still there — has been dramatically chopped back.
I didn’t really realize it was happening until a couple of months ago. In a two-week period, I happened to read Hayden Howard’s sci-fi novel The Eskimo Invasion, Harry Turtledove’s short story “Forty, Counting Down” and the movie (500) Days of Summer. All of then feature adult male protagonists who find themselves in a difficult situation, respond by trying to take control of every aspect of it, and turn it from difficult to impossible and/or disastrous.
As I was reading/watching these guys, I found myself going, “you dummies! Don’t do that, you’re just making the situation worse. Ease up, ask for help, relax and enjoy the good moments — but for crying out loud, don’t attempt to run the whole show! That way lies madness!” And about the sixth time I thought that, it hit me …
… “wait a second. That was me years ago! That’s exactly the kind of (fecal matter) I used to do!” (Incidentally, I think I may have actually thought the phrase “(fecal matter).” I never really learned how to cuss properly, so when I try I end up sounding like Robin Williams playing a robot in Bicentennial Man. Sad but true.) When I was younger, I probably would’ve been rooting for these guys to succeed in their plans. Now, I’m shaking my head and wondering when and where they misplaced their brains.
Once you know that something has changed in you, you begin to spot it everywhere. I realized I was a lot more relaxed with Sean’s doctors and therapists — or at least I was 90% of the time. (Toldja it was a work in progress.) I was blowing up less at Charlotte when she did something she knew better than to do. I was even less worked up when the San Francisco Giants almost blew the National League West title in the final series against San Diego — remember, the Giants came into that three-game stand needing only one victory, and spit up on themselves in the first two games before winning the third. Me, I was all, “hey, if it works out, great; if not, it’s not the end of the world.” Not bad for someone who felt like he’d lost all feeling in his face during game 7 of the 2002 World Series.
I’m nowhere near totally free of my controlling tendencies; that may not be finished before I die or Jesus returns (whichever comes first). But as the saying goes, “I’m not what I want to be, I’m not what I ought to be … but thank God I’m not what I used to be.” I’ll take the step forward, and I’ll look forward to the next step.
Right now, f’rinstance, our marriage has hit a bump. Not a deal-breaker, just a little kerfuffle, part adjustments of expectations, part stress reactions. In the past, I might have tried to take control of the whole affair and attempt to “fix” Nina. You can just imagine how well THAT worked. This time … I’m just taking a step back and letting it work itself out. Nina is God’s child, and if she needs “fixing,” that’s between her and Him. If the fault is mine, I’m trusting that He can point out my error(s) without me having to guess then (and possibly get in His way). Either way, I’m trusting Him and tending to my own business.
And you know what? It feels great. Score one for progress, eh?