Friday, May 15, 2015

The Control We Never Had

I have another nightmare that's recurring and it came to my attention when I had it again, two nights ago. I'm driving my car and when I press the breaks, it slows down but not nearly fast enough. I end up grinding my foot into the floor and still running into something. When I put it in park, it rolls, so I have to wedge it against something in the parking lot. When I'm on the interstate, my car will accelerate until it's going so fast, I can't keep it on the road. 

It's super scary. I hate those dreams. In real life my breaks work fine - I've never experienced them going out, so what's the deal? My counselor says it's not about the circumstances in a dream as much as the feeling you experience. If I had to describe this dream in a few words, I'd say this: Panic about being out of control.

Hmm...I've enjoyed being renovation-nightmare free, so I thought I'd go through my little process with you for this dream. So if you need to work some things, you can give this a try. 

First we tell ourselves the facts about our situation:
  • I'm not control of a lot of factors that affect me
  • Almost every decision I make has some unknowns
Second, we verbalize what we believe about the situation: 
  • I'm not safe if I can't control the forces around me
  • I can't make good decisions if I don't know all the facts
Then we look at the results of our beliefs:
  • I try to force control where I have none
  • I indulge in worrying to feel like I'm doing something about uncontrollable things
  • It tempts me to manipulate people to do what I want
  • I put off decisions and actions when I'm frustrated that I can't have "all the facts"
And last, but most important, we give ourselves the freedom of truth:
  • I'm not responsible for things like weather, the economy, or how mean people are, so I need not blame myself for harm that comes my way or the way of my loved ones
  • I can take any precautions I feel are needed, but worrying doesn't make anyone safe
  • I can make my best decision with the information I gather and let myself off the hook if it turns out badly
Isn't that great? While I was reading this article, I got to the clarity section and realized I'd never come to terms with life's unknowns. Courtney Carver says, " up to not knowing. When you do that, you make room for the knowing." I saw that all my fussing over the unknowns is keeping me from knowing the stuff I can know. I'm literally confusing myself, instead of being grateful for what I do know and moving forward.

None of this is possible without letting our perfectionism go. While we're tangled up in that, we have to punish ourselves for imperfect choices and life's dead ends. We let the judgy voice get shrill and say if we'd been wiser, if we'd researched better, if we'd consulted the right people, we could have known. We should have known. And the next time we face a decision we freeze. We know how dearly we'll pay if we take another fall, so the underachieving path starts to look like the one safe thing. "If I just never put myself out there or try anything that might be too hard for me..." 

It's no life. So let that shit go. 

(I apologize if swearing is a never, never ever for you. My mamma uses a word or two when she feels strongly and I sometimes can't find a word strong enough without a little cursing. So I'm sorry if I hurt your ears from time to time, but just know that when I use it here, it's from the deepest most earnest part of me. Especially when I'm talking about something as evil and cruel as perfectionsim.)

So I hope I wake up tomorrow without the careening car dreams, but mostly I hope I wake up to clarity. To knowing what I know and what I don't and finding peace with that. Will I wish for more information sometimes? I'm sure. I just hope I can remember knowing everything was never part of my job description and neither was navigating perfectly. 

A highschool teacher spied my perfectionism and shared this quote with me:

So out with the hesitating, timid life. We're free to set sail and love (our entire job description) with abandon. Happy sailing!

P.S. If this totally freaks you out, remember how much you do control. You. When people forget to appreciate you, tell yourself thank-you. When life is demanding too much, take a moment to relax. When you fall short and say something mean, forgive yourself. You set the climate of your internal world, and I imagine, based on wise people who've tried it, it's enough. 


  1. Thank you - something I need to be reminded of, even when I don't think I do.

  2. I am ALL about well-places curse words!

    1. Me too, Heather! And made up words...Nobody does it like Cheryl Strayed (le sigh!)