Confessions of a Recovering Control Freak - Part 2

Part 1

I said once I was going to write about learning not to be afraid, but finding my way through where to start on such a big theme in my life was more than I could manage then. 

I used to have to literally sit on my hands, to keep myself from doing anything that was a fear based controlling reaction. I didn't know what to do that wasn't me trying to escape the fear by doing something to give myself the illusion that I could protect myself with some sort of inane action, however unrelated. To this day, if I am having an uncomfortable conversation, or I'm worried about something, I will find something to scrub, or a crevice to clean the dirt out of, and focus on that the whole time we're talking, just like my grandmother. This is not to be confused with all the times I deep clean something just for the satisfaction of seeing it clean. I'm sometimes a little OCD like that. You would think my house would be more tidy than it is with that tendency, but it's not.

The truth is, the antidote to fear is choosing to trust. I would sit on my hands, not knowing what else to do, and remind myself, "I trust God. I trust God. I trust God. I choose to trust God. I believe God is good."

I didn't tell myself that God was in control of everything, because, my friends, I don't believe it's true. And if it were true, it's more terrifying than if it isn't. If God is in control of everything than the little girls who are right now being raped by their dads, or an uncle, or a John, are suffering because he made it happen. I don't accept that. I don't even try to make that make sense with a God who is good, and who loves, because it's a waste of time and energy. It's just not something that can coexist in the same being. Either he is good, and he loves, or he's in control, and he's the terrifying orchestrator of evil.

Now you know why it was so hard to figure out how to write about this, because I just plunged down the theological rabbit hole with that last paragraph, and it's a long way to the bottom before I finish explaining what I mean. How do I put a neat little bow on this post now?

Here's the short way out of the tunnel, maybe.

For some reason God saw fit to entrust us with a lot of power, to affect our own lives, and to affect the lives of others. This may have a lot to do with the fact that when He made us it was so we could rule over the earth and take care of it and stuff. We made a mess of that and all. But we still have this free will, and this power to change things and make things happen with our choices. For some reason God didn't take that away from us once we turned away from Him. I suspect it's because he is still fighting to get things back to the way he planned for them to be, us knowing him and taking care of the earth with him.

But the key word there is fighting. Because we have this power and God doesn't take it away and control us, and there are lots of people, and other agencies perhaps, choosing not to obey him. Not to mention all the people who say they are obeying him, and maybe even think it's true, and who are still doing harm to the earth and each other anyway. All of which means God's will isn't being done, and we are in the middle of a war zone, and God isn't in control. But you know, he doesn't have to be. Because he's really good at redemption, at making things right out of wrong, beauty out of ashes, joy out of mourning. In the end I believe he'll win. He'll get what he wants, which is all of humanity choosing to obey and use the power he gave us to do the good he intended from the start.

So I once sat on my hands and reminded myself that I chose to trust in God's goodness, that he is with me, that he will redeem all things.

Eventually I stopped having to sit on my hands most of the time. I learned how to deal with how big and scary and unpredictable the world really is, and to let go of the illusion of safety in order to embrace the good that was always there, even in the bad. I learned to laugh at the days. (Now you know.)

So this week, as I often find myself needing a quiet place to sit on my hands and chose not to be enveloped by the rising panic and the sheer number of overwhelming things, perhaps I'm writing about this to remind myself of what is true. I lose sight of it so often. I know I'm not the only one.

I should probably do more than joke about that support group.
Fearful People's Anonymous meeting today. Sign up below. We can remind each other to let go of our illusions.


Confessions of Recovering Control Freak

Want to know how to make me fall apart?

Give me a bunch of things I can't do all by myself, that have to be done in a set amount of time, thereby forcing me to ask other people for help, and rely on them and work around their schedules, to get those things done. Add in a husband who is out of town while all this is going on, so the list of things I have to ask other people to do for me doubles because he's not there to do them. Add to that 4 children who keep making messes, and unpacking things that are already packed, and basically going along behind me undoing everything I get done, while at the same time asking me if I can take them to do fun things, and read this book to them, and come and play, and I will fall apart eventually. Throw in pregnant hormones and a pesky cough that won't go away and strains my bladder to the breaking point, just for added bonus kicks. Oh, and throw some brand new, urgent, must do before I go, project at me as well, on an almost daily basis, right when I was starting to feel like I might be on top of things. Might as well.

Today I fell apart because while I was in the shower the girls played with water outside and BamBam, who was already dressed, in his last pair of clean pants of course, decided to join in, got his pants soaking wet and stripped down to nothing.

Just one more thing that was undone, after it was done, when we had to get out the door. I spent the next half hour sobbing quietly as we tried to find Little's other shoe, again, and something else for BamBam to wear and talk to Aaron when he called in the middle of it, from the other side of the continent. It's a good thing I didn't notice until we got home hours later the way BamBam scribbled with marker all over the stone right beside the front door. Thank God for small mercies.

So not what I wanted added to my plate today.
I learned early on in life never to attempt anything that I couldn't finish myself. I learned that other people aren't reliable, don't care as much about things as I do, and that if I have to trust them to get something done it probably won't get done. Every time someone tells me they will do something, and then doesn't do it, it reinforces this basic assumption that I'm all alone in life and that if I want anything done, I have to do it myself.

So perhaps the worse thing, the most powerless feeling ever, is to have to ask someone else to help me to do something that I really need to do, because I can't do it myself. I hate it. Guess what I've been doing, daily, for weeks now?

And then there are the things I need my kids to do, just so we still function together. When they don't do them, when I have to remind them 5, 10, 15 times to do one simple thing... Let's just say my ability to be patient is about as trustworthy as my bladder these days. It could betray me at any moment.

I'm a control freak in recovery. We should have a support group. "My name is Carrien and I have trust issues."

Starting The Charis Project was another step out of only trusting myself all the time. It doesn't work unless others join in. That's been a journey, and I've gotten comfortable asking other people to help me help orphans. The fact that other people do actually help is still sometimes astonishing. I'm still surprised by it.

But asking other people to make multiple trips in a truck loaded with my stuff, in their spare time off from school and all their other daily responsibilities, hoping and praying that people show up when I ask them for help instead of leaving me hanging with boxes too heavy for me to lift, and things I can't move and chaos just waiting at the door? Those things make me panic.

Even though there they were in the rain yesterday, hauling furniture to storage.
The thing is, we have amazing friends, and family. So many people who have already shown up to help, and who have volunteered to show up to help this week. They have been there for me, time and time again. But the lessons learned in childhood are not easily unlearned. It takes a whole lot more to push me over the edge than it used to, but I every so often discover it's still there. I worry, that I'm asking too much, that it won't get done, even though I really have no reason to doubt them.

No logical reason anyway. Just this rising panic that leaks out of my voice when I find all the wood toys I carefully gathered together and put in a box scattered all over the floor once again.

What if I can't do it?

What if it doesn't get done?

What if I screw this whole thing up when I inevitably drop the ball on something, anything? I will drop the ball, I know that, but what if it breaks this time and all is lost?

Today I was still wiping away tears as we drove away from the house, and feared they would spill over again as soon as I talked to anyone.

The girls take a ballet class at a Christian homeschool co-op we're part of. I'm trying to get them there every week before we go so they have time with their friends, even thought it's hard to find the time.

The very first mom I saw said, "We were praying for you this morning in Coffee Connect." (The classes go all day and there is a group of moms that meet in the morning to talk and pray and stuff during the very first class. I've been exactly once, before I realized we didn't have a class that started before 1pm.)

That surprised me. I'm still surprised you see when others care.

Those ladies today got me through. I needed the love, and the commiseration, and the knowledge that people knew I was struggling and were praying me through it. It was lovely to just talk to friends who know exactly how full my plate is, and understand what that actually means, and how many full time jobs I'm juggling at once, just to remember that I'm not crazy, or failing, when I'm overwhelmed by it all. I'm just human.

When we got home and I saw the pen marks next to the front door, I was mostly able to keep the panicky angry tone out of my voice as I asked when that had happened and who did it. Mostly.

I'm a few inches away from the edge again, instead of teetering right over the chasm, and I've remembered that even when it feels like it, I'm not really alone. There are people who have my back.

Part 2 tomorrow, on dealing with fear.


My Husband on Marriage

A while ago Aaron and I were listening to a podcast which was a debate on female roles in the church, and marriage, etc.

Totally not interesting to anyone who isn't trying to fit their lives into the context of the Biblical narrative, I know, but a source of never ending conversation for those who are.

But we were talking about it after, because both sides seemed to be kind of missing the point.

At one point Aaron brought up the directive in the Bible for wives to submit to their husbands, and we started talking about why that might be in there if it wasn't because of X, Y, and Z, all of which seemed to be stupid rationalizations of broken human behavior.

I asked him why he thought it was there then, and he didn't answer right away. About an hour later he walked up to me and announced, out of the blue, "I think it's because women are so much stronger than men."

That made me laugh out loud, certain no one had ever framed the discussion in quite those terms before. Then I told him he ought to write a post about it, because it seemed others might appreciate his perspective as well.

I've been meaning to share the posts he subsequently wrote with you for ages.

Valentine's Day, that day that claims to honor love but is mostly about people buying useless stuff they don't need in order to not feel left out of some sappy romantic feelings, seemed a good day to talk about what real love entails, and requires, and how that looks in marriages.

So I give you Aaron's posts. I think you will enjoy them.

You're Not the Boss of Me

I'm Not the Boss of Me Either

This Boss Idea is Kind of a Load of Crap

I lifted something I wrote in the comments section to his first post and I'm putting it here as well. But you should read his posts first before you read it, I think, for context.

"You see, submitting is something I get to choose to do, or not, of my own autonomy. My husband doesn't get to force me to do it. It's something I choose, and it requires something of me in terms of sacrifice to be able to choose it. Thus the expectation that it takes strength to do so.

I can't force my husband to love me either. By love I am not talking of feelings, but of the actions that consider my welfare and what is good for me in his choices for himself and our family. He gets to choose that, or not.

None of this is about who is in control, because we are only in control of ourselves in the end, if we are lucky, and work on it.

To me submitting to my husband means not trying to get my way all the time or force him to do things my way. It's being honest about what I want and then choosing to trust my husband to make decisions with my welfare in mind.

It takes courage to do this. Fear would have me try to control and manipulate rather than trust, and this would destroy our relationship in the end. No one wants to feel controlled.

The command to submit I believe is the way a woman, should she obey it, has to let go of fear and choose to trust her husband which in turn allows him the freedom to love her and take care of her instead of fight her. It takes the battle out of the relationship.

In other words, to submit in a marriage is enlightened self interest and smart women the world over do it, whether they define it in such terms or not."

What do you think?


My Surprise Indian Baby Shower

A few weeks ago I went up to L.A. to help Brenda with Bug's Black Kitty birthday party, and to make good on a promise to stay longer the next time I was in town.

At the same time, my friend Mamatha, who used to be a neighbor when we lived in our apartment, is now also living in L.A. and invited me to visit her at her new house. They wanted Aaron to come to but he was on the road again and there was no weekend in January that he could make it, so I figured we would go while we were already in the neighborhood.

So after Bug's party we packed all our stuff into the van and headed north, expecting to have dinner with our friends before driving home again later that night. We headed out a bit late, but not too bad. Traffic was light.

Then I got lost.

And then Linga, Mamatha's husband, was phoning and messaging asking where I was while I tried to not drive all the way to the beach and find a way to turn around and get back to where I needed to be. They live at the junction of three different freeways. I got turned around 3 different times just trying to head home again.

But anyway, we made it eventually, horribly late by this time and pulled up behind the garage.

I still suspected nothing. Not even when Linga told me Mamatha wanted me to go in through the front of the house instead of through the garage and then walked me all the way around while I carried BamBam and my full bladder halfway around the block.

Then there were the people lined up in the living room in brightly colored saris, and my first thought was, "Oh, you had other dinner guests too? I'm so sorry I kept you all waiting."

I didn't notice the banner on the wall. I was looking for the bathroom.

Then Mamatha said, "Welcome to your baby shower."

Then it was all clear. Also, I had to make them wait longer so I could get to the bathroom. Pregnant bladders don't wait.

Mamatha's Shower, a couple of years back.
I was feeling terribly under dressed, but I needn't have worried. I had been Mamatha's baby shower before, and one she hosted for a friend. I forgot that it's traditional to give the expectant mother a new sari. Which she did.

Then we went upstairs and they got me all dolled up for my party. Jewelry, make up, fake hair pieces to lengthen my braid, bangles, sari, the whole nine yards, literally, have you seen how long a sari is?

There was a worrisome moment when the blouse was too small, but thanks to the wonders of Indian tailoring, they provide 3 different size options in the seam allowance, and they are already sewn in. Some emergency seam ripping and it was all good, the transformation was complete.

We were ready for a baby shower.

The girls borrowed some clothes from their friend while they waited for me to get ready.
There are a series of Hindu blessings that you have to do at a baby shower that involve the women sprinkling rice and flowers in my hair, putting bindi powder on my forehead and chin, bangles on my wrists, and feeding me.

I look very fat and white next to all these lovely Indian women.

Then I'm supposed to give them some fruit and gifts in return. There are also some candles and stuff and every time I ask why about all the things they tell me it's just tradition. So I go ahead and bless them according to my tradition too. At least, when I'm not totally caught off guard by such a surprise I have.

The girls had fun goofing off.
Two of the girls performed a dance for me, which was amazing, and there are no pictures of them doing it. They are taking traditional dance classes together and put together a routine for me to watch.

the kids eating
Then it was finally time to eat. The eating arrangements are pretty traditional too at parties like this. The kids get fed, then, because it's a baby shower the ladies go first, and then finally the men. I felt so bad by this point about being an hour or more late. Those guys just waited around and played ping pong forever before feeding their hungry bellies.

This here is amazing, authentic, homemade southern Indian food. So good!
(They also had some fajitas for the kids, in case they didn't like the good stuff.)
Linga's mother was visiting from India. She doesn't speak a word of English, and I don't speak a word of Telegu, but she was so sweet and we got on just fine.

It was so very kind of my friends to go to so much trouble to celebrate me and the baby. The thing is, I didn't know anyone except Mumatha and Linga, and one other person I had met before. They all came because of their friendship with my friends, in order to celebrate with us. It was the most loving thing. Aaron was so sad to have missed it. I texted him when we arrived about the surprise and he almost cried looking at the photos I posted as the night went on.

I can tell you that I felt so very loved by everything they did, and I just wanted to tell you all about it. It was a great night. A baby shower was the last thing on my mind what with all the other things going on around me. I'm glad I have friends who will celebrate important things even when I forget to.


When Reality Doesn't Conform to Expectations

The other night Bam Bam woke up in a mood. You know the kind. He's not hungry, he's not thirsty, he doesn't want to any hugs or kisses he just wants something inane, that only makes sense to his little sleep addled brain.

In this case he wanted me to get out of bed and go sit on the couch so he could sit on my lap there and fall back asleep again. It makes sense, sort of, that's how he fell asleep the first time, before I laid him in his bed.

But at 4:30 in the morning this tired pregnant mama is going to need 2 things, to use the bathroom, again, and to lay in bed and sleep.

So after figuring out that all he wanted was snuggles in different geography I told him no more, we're going back to bed, after I used the bathroom that is.

You who have children like this may well imagine the fit that followed. He was literally trying to pry me out of bed and make me do it his way.

There are moments when you realize your kid is not going to listen to reason, he's just going to fight for something senseless because he's going to fight for it, and you just have to help him deal with it until he can calm himself down.

These are the moments when Aaron or I will scoop him up, hold him close, immobilizing him so he can't keep punching us in the throat or kicking us in the stomach, and hold him until he calms himself down.

I can tell you that nothing feels more like a never ending endurance test than holding a screaming, fighting, kicking and trying to bite toddler for hours on end. Ok, it's usually less than an hour, often longer than half an hour, but it always feels like forever.

He screams "GO, GO!" Which is his way of demanding I let go. I murmur soothing words in his ear, tell him I love him even though he's a giant pain in my butt right now and keeping me from things I'd like to be doing, and practice my slow breathing, while wondering how much longer my arms can hold out since he's fighting super hard and they are starting to ache.

We always give him a way out. "I will let go when you calm yourself down. Or say please."

He refuses to do either, usually for a while.

So I lay there for 20 minutes or more, restraining my child, who was screaming because he wanted me to hold him, just in a different place.

Eventually he stopped fighting and lay still and I asked, in my gentle sympathetic voice, "Are all done?"

"No." He whimpered in response, but he remained still and didn't fight, so I let go, and he sat up.

At that moment I opened my arms wide and asked, "Do you want a hug?"

He threw himself at me, nestled his very sweaty little head right up under my chin, and hiccuped and sighed as he began to relax into sleep again.

He threw himself into the exact same place he had been fighting me so hard to be let out of only moments before. Other than getting up once, very quietly, and asking me to get him water, he spent the rest of the night cuddled beside me, in the exact same spot where I had held him down.

Since I enjoy irony as much as I do I couldn't help but laugh at the stupidity of the whole encounter. I, after all, hadn't changed. I was still laying in bed, still holding him in my arms, kissing his head, and whispering calming things in his ear. What changed was him. He gave up fighting to get my comfort and care on his own terms, and instead accepted the love that was always offered, surrendering, and relaxing into it, instead of pushing against it.

Which makes me wonder about us, as grown ups, and how much of the misery we experience in our lives is because we are fighting against the love, and good that is held out in front of us, because it's not exactly the way we want it. We are so attached to our idea of how we ought to be loved, what we ought to have, or where we ought to have arrived at already, that we fight against, instead of accept, that what we NEED is prepared already.

How many times has your unhappiness stemmed from the disparity between the idea you carry in your brain of what will make you happy, and the actual reality you face? How much joy do you and I miss because of this comparison?

What are the chances we are exactly like a 2 year old fighting against the person who loves us and holds us and comforts us no matter how much we fight against him? What if we are the ones who are demanding it happen our way, instead of receiving joyfully what we do in fact have, and what we are, in fact, given?

How much contentment could we find if we stopped fighting against our present circumstance, and instead chose to embrace it, to give thanks for what is there, rather than fighting for the idea in our head of how it ought to be?

Just a thought for the day.

What do you think?

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