Letting Go for Control Freaks

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Tired businessman commuter is traveling and is waiting alone

Let go and let god. – Unknown

I was laying awake staring at the ceiling. Had my stepson made it to the party? Was his friend there to meet him? He was in a strange city and had taken the metro by himself. He had skipped out the door seemingly without a care in the world, just like I would have done at his age. Oh please, I would have wanted to say to my parents, quit worrying, I’m going to be just fine.

My perspective had changed significantly since I was my stepson’s age. Now, I knew way too much about everything that could possibly go wrong for a teenager heading out to a party late at night. I worried that I wasn’t there to alert him to all the possible dangers. I knew he was too young to have learned everything that I had learned in my lifetime. Why don’t they teach this stuff in school? Why don’t young people listen? They think they are invincible. Tragically, they are not.

So, I was lying awake. I knew I could not – and should not – exert the kind of drone-like surveillance over my stepson that I wanted to in order to calm my fears. Ultimately I feel that if I could… just… supervise… everything… then everything will be okay and everyone will be safe. Is that so much to ask?

Rationally, I know that trying to control everything is impossible, exhausting and pretty irritating to everyone around me. I’m not a god – I know that – and I have to learn to let go.

I guess I’ve finally figured out what that annoying expression, “Let go and let god” really means. I’m not at all religious so I normally avoid any mention of “god”, assuming it can’t apply to me. After all, it sounds like a quote you would see embroidered on a pillow at some chintzy store.

What it means is that we can’t control everybody and everything. That’s okay, though, because there is something or someone more powerful than ourselves (known to many as “god”) who is looking out for us – and for our loved ones. It reminds us that we can let go of the control because “god” is ultimately handling everything. While lying awake worrying about my stepson, I knew that I just had to let go and trust that something greater than myself was watching out for him, too.

It’s easy to impart that advice when a friend is worrying about her kid. I can go all “Dalai Lama” on that situation. But, when it’s your kid, putting that advice into practice is easier said than done.

Unfortunately, when someone is making their way in the world without us or doing things that we don’t feel are safe, there is only so much control we have to protect them or to influence them in making different choices. I think that is the most frustrating and helpless feeling when it involves those we really care about.

In order to let go of our desire to control another person – even when we have the best intentions for that person’s own personal safety – we have to know that there is something else, or someone else, who is protecting that person. We define that something or someone in our own way. Some name a person or entity around which a world religion has been formed. Some identify a more general “god”. Personally, I call it “the universe”.

In my experience, the best cure for a worried and exhausted control freak is a relationship with “god”. When I feel helpless about a situation, confused by a turn of events or worried for someone else, I remind myself that I’m not the only one in control.

While it feels empowering to do everything possible on the rational and physical plane to keep others safe, there is only so much that any of us can really control. I remind myself that “god” is also looking out for everyone’s best interests and he, she or it is a whole lot more powerful than I am. That is where I find comfort, when lying awake at night, worrying about someone else. I know that I’m not the only one in charge. Whew.

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