2/16/2009

control issues


iris, originally uploaded by pilgrimgirl.

A few weeks ago I had a situation that was beyond my control and as I fussed about it, someone pointed out to me that I might have some "control issues." I've thought a lot about that since then.

As much as I think I'm a kind of happy-go-lucky hippie type of person who scoffs at school rules and the Irvine Company and riding my bike where I'm supposed to, I'm learning that I like controlling much of my life and my environment. For example, when we gather with friends, I far prefer having them over to our place, which allows me to control the menu, the timing, etc. I'm much less relaxed at gatherings held in other peoples' homes. Also, I love my calendar and my daily task lists--and I am very careful with the way I apportion my time. I don't like having to be too many places in one day (more than 3 appts/classes/meetings) or I start to get anxious and I tend to find a way to back out of something.

Now, I think much of my 'control' has to do with my disability. When I'm at my house I am familiar with the terrain--I know which chairs will be comfortable, I can be barefoot (I walk far less well when shod), and so forth. If I'm especially weary I can take off my leg with little drama, which isn't as possible at a friends' place. Also, my desire to keep my schedule somewhat open undoubtedly is related to that, too. If I've got sores on my leg or if my leg isn't fitting well on a particular day, the hurdles of finding parking and getting to meetings or whatever, can be downright painful.

One reason that I'm enjoying my life so much right now is that I am so able to be 'in control' of my schedule. I work mostly from home with some outings to archives or libraries. I'm not teaching so I don't have chunks of time each week where I need to be in the classroom or in office hours (and of course there's no grading papers either!). There are many benefits to being master of my own schedule, such as being able to incorporate regular exercise and meditation into my daily routine. Not to mention the ability to get much work done on my dissertation even while I'm the primary caregiver for our kids.

But I wonder if my ability to be so 'in control' of things is having a deleterious effect on other aspects of my life. I feel like I've been less accommodating of others' schedules and needs. I'm less relaxed with John. I prefer being at home to going 'out.' I feel a kind of self-focus that's rather unhealthy--I think a lot about what I'm wearing, what I'm eating, what I want. I find I have less patience with others' desires and needs.

While we were traveling over the holiday I consciously attempted to give up some of my 'control' and relax more. I think I've been less successful with that of late. The desire to control is two-edged--I believe that much of my success academically/professionally stems from my ability to control my life and be productive. But control can also be born of fear, and I don't find that to be particularly healthy. I don't want to structure my life so much that I can't relax and be open to novelty and pleasure. And I don't want to always be in charge.

I've recently added a new item to my daily task list, "do something extra-ordinary" (note: the irony of 'scheduling' such a thing is not lost on me...). On some days it means a venture into Second Life, where I'm a n00b and I hardly know which way is up. Other days it means making a phone call to someone I barely know, or driving somewhere unfamiliar. It can even be wearing clothing that's outside my comfort zone (I am such a creature of habit). Or picking up a book that I'm unsure whether I will enjoy (as a side note: yesterday's venture in that direction stalled when I got to the elves in the book--gah, I am so not a fantasy person). And in all things I'm finding those moments of exasperation--those times when I'm craving control--and I'm trying to understand just what's going on there:
What am I feeling?
What are my fears?
Why do I need to do it my way?
Can I let go of my need to be in charge?
Can I lose control?

Picture taken in my garden a few days ago. I've had some gorgeous irises blooming and I cut a bunch and have had them in a green vase next to my sink. :)

5 comments:

hollygee said...

"--and I am very careful with the way I apportion my time. I don't like having to be too many places in one day (more than 3 appts/classes/meetings) or I start to get anxious and I tend to find a way to back out of something.

Now, I think much of my 'control' has to do with my disability."
-----> I feel much the same. My disability is Celiac disease, which I has really been under control for years. But I don't like to leave home. It would be much better for me if I had a job and got out in the world more, right now I resent going out for my single weekly literacy student.
Go you! Your scheduled discovery of an unknown is a wonderful idea.

C. L. Hanson said...

Re: For example, when we gather with friends, I far prefer having them over to our place, which allows me to control the menu, the timing, etc. I'm much less relaxed at gatherings held in other peoples' homes.

Haha, it's totally the opposite at our house. Our apartment is such a pig-sty that we can hardly invite other people over. As a quasi-valentines-gift, my husband and I worked together to clean the place up -- and it's very nice to have our space relatively tidy -- but it still wasn't up to the level of people who clean like normal people. I sometimes tell myself that I'm being nice to my guests because nobody but nobody is going to be feeling inferior (in terms of cleanliness or decor) when they visit my place. ;^)

But really, it's typically beyond even that level...

Yet my husband and I love dinner parties, so basically we have to hope that we give good enough gifts and our conversation is sparkling enough that people will invite us again, even if we're a little weak on the reciprocal invitations...

Aerin said...

Best of luck to you Jana. This stuff is difficult. Aside from letting go - the one thing that helps me with my control issues is admitting them, asking for help from loved ones and trying to communicate my feelings and needs with the people in my life. It's really not so easy, since it hasn't been a habit for me.

I've been amazed at how people are really able to meet me at my level and work with me though - it's pretty amazing. As an example, it sounds petty and trite, but even little things like asking the vegetarians in my life to bring their own meal over, or cook their meal at my house. I was getting terribly stressed about what I would making, making two meals, whatever. Or asking other people to pay at restaurants (I have a habit of always trying to pay).

There's so much we don't have control over. So the little that I can control - it's nice to be able to negiotiate instead of picking up the slack on everything.

(good for you for doing something extraordinary each day!)

Erin G. said...

Hee. It's funny that you mention only doing 3 things a day or else you'll start to back out. That's true for me too! So much so that my friend's started calling it "The Magic Three" years ago. Like, when I go over to their houses they are all, "Yes! I made the Magic Three today!"

It's Magic, because any more than 3 things to do in a day...and I'm a total space case. Four thing in a day? Nope -- the law of diminishing returns kicks in. I can't do my life with quality if I over-schedule. And I tend to do that. Unless I invoke The Magic Three

G said...

I have control issues too and only mental disabilities to blame it on.

I need to take a page from your book and schedule somethings extraordinary. (irony be damned.)