Control freak = me.
At least it used to.
I held a firm belief (you could even go so far as to call it a religion) that If I could just control what was going on around me (the school I got into, how I looked, etc) then I could have some grip on the outcome of my life. That I could protect myself from things like pain, disappointment, the potential for unspeakable tragedy, the unknown.
On some level, most of us operate from this place. Whether we try to control our lives in an attempt to control the world we live in or to control the feeling of being so small and helpless within it – we somehow equate control with safety.
But if we take a step back, deep down we know we can’t be protected from what life throws at us. And to many of us, the mere thought of that is deeply overwhelming.
I get that.
For most of my life I lived from a deep place of fear and from the juxtaposition of needing to control life and fundamentally understanding that there was no way I could.
My mid-twenties was a very confusing (let’s call it misaligned) time in my life. I had worked my ass off to get into an amazing grad school only to get there feeling not only inadequate but more like “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t even like International Relations.” Yet I still tried to control the outcome of everything – from the interviews that would determine my internships down to the grade I got on a paper, literally stressing and crying when the outcome didn’t go as planned. (“But what if I don’t get an A and then I don’t get the GPA I need to get the job I want? And then… and then.. and then…”)
My seemingly-determined continuation down a misaligned path just made other things shift out of place. I broke up with my now-husband, who I had been dating for 4 years at the time, because despite my best effort to control the exact path of my life, I had somehow wound up somewhere I increasingly felt I really didn’t want to be – which made me want no part of the life I was living. So I had to start to “get rid of” everything in it. Makes sense, huh?
Then came anorexia. Because if everything else was completely spiraling out (at least it felt that way internally) then at least I could control what I ate and feel good about myself and the way I looked. At the very least, the attention I got from looking a certain way could distract me from the sh*t-storm I felt my life had become.
Controlling every step of the way could not have made me feel less in control.
Surrender is a tough word.
In our society, it’s almost a dirty word. We surrender to the enemy during war. Surrender equals weakness. It equals vulnerability (another “dirty” word). It equals lack of persistence. Giving up.
But in other cultures, surrender is a beautiful word. In Sanskrit the idea of surrender is called Ishvara Pranidana, meaning surrender the ego to God. Ishvara prandidana indicates that it is only through surrender (of the ego) and through releasing the idea of separateness that we can attain connection with our highest selves.
And recently, surrender has become my favorite word.
Surrender is what took me from stressed out, misaligned, unhappy, anorexic consultant living in DC to healthy life coach and yoga studio owner living in the Bahamas.
But most importantly it brought me to a place where I’m truly content. And to where I feel secure. Not always financially secure (who doesn’t wish they had more money?) Not always like nothing bad in life could never happen. But like if it does I know I’ll be able to handle it – that the Universe has my back.
I know this may be a hard concept to grasp. It was an inconceivable concept to me for a long time. In fact, it’s taken me more than a year to have anything coherent to write about surrender because it’s so much more something that must be experienced than can be explained. So I understand that, without a doubt, the hardest part of surrender is trusting. Trusting that the Universe or God or whatever you want to call it has your back. And the thing is, NO ONE can surrender or “let go” for you. Unfortunately it is a choice we and only we can make for ourselves.
But the alternative is continually swimming upstream. You can use all your energy and persistence to keep going but if you’re “going against life” all you end up doing is wearing yourself out until eventually you end up utterly exhausted or downstream where you were meant to be. And “downstream” looks different for all of us. For me, downstream is exactly where I am and what I’m doing now.
One last thing. By no means am I talking about giving up on hard work. I still work my ass off. But I listen to myself, to my intuition. I take on what feels right and say no to what doesn’t.
Surrendering is what we must learn to do daily.
And if all else fails just remember “Even the plans that you had that worked out probably haven’t worked out the way you had planned” – unknown