Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Control? Me?

Me: Sweetie, I think I have a few control issues.
Sweetie: Yeh.
Me: Hey! Are you agreeing with me. I thought you'd say, "no Dear, you don't need to hold on to life's reins so hard that you make it go in the direction you want."
Sweetie: Well see, I think you just gave your own example. Control is holding on to the reins. No control is floating through life like a just released helium balloon, riding the air currents, and enjoying the view.
Me: You mean people do that? Hmmm.


Me: I was telling Sweetie the other night I think I have some control issues.
Weneki: I think so too.
Me: Hmmm.


I remember the first time I ever heard of control issues. I was in a 12-step meeting. Someone brought up the subject and the rest of the circle nodded in agreement. I thought control was my father, or my husband, or my son, always being in charge. You know, being the boss. Since I've never considered myself the boss of anything, I never thought control issues were my problem. I had other issues to deal with. Like fear. Anger. Depression.

For example I don't like flying. Okay, if you call squeezing my eyes shut, grabbing the armrest so tight my knuckles turn white, and repeating Hail Mary full of grace over and over even though I'm not Catholic, I'm downright afraid of flying. Take offs and landings are the worse. But I sit in my tiny space with my seat belt securely fastened. I don't try to tell the pilot how to fly the plane. That's what I would call controlling.

Sweetie, on the other hand, seems to think that I'm over the top in the controlling department when he's driving. All right, sometimes I do tell him where to turn. What's wrong with that? I often know a shorter way. Sometimes I do scream, "lookout!" and come close to putting my foot through the floorboard by pressing on a break pedal that isn't there.  What's wrong with that? He's been know to slip in between two Mack trucks without ever slowing down.  It's not that I don't trust him to drive safely. He's the man, after all, and I do believe men are better able to make split-second decisions than me. I happen to like being the one with my foot on the pedal.  Kind of like a back up quarterback keeping his throwing arm warmed up.  No one would call that guy controlling?


According to www.goodtherapy.org 
Control issues are characterized by a person’s need to micromanage and orchestrate the actions and behaviors of others. Control is most often a reaction to fear. People who struggle with the need to be in control often fear being at the mercy of others. Control issues can develop from traumatic events that created a feeling of helplessness and chaos, thus causing a person to crave control in a disproportionate and unhealthy manner.

It's true, I don't like being at the mercy of others. But it's also true, I don't like being Charles in charge. Maybe that's where the anxiety and chaos enter the picture. 

All this is to say, as I approach my 61st birthday, I think I should have better "control" over my own fears.  If fear is the cause of control issues, than controlling that fear should fix things right? So I've picked a couple of fears and decided, for my birthday, I want to conquer one of them.  The theory being if I show myself there's nothing to be afraid of, next time I'm afraid I'll be more confident and less controlling, right? 

I've picked horseback riding.  I have had a couple horse traumas in my life. There's a picture somewhere of my sister Jo riding a horse through some woods, by herself. There's also a picture of me bringing up the rear, but I'm sharing the saddle with a park ranger. I remember nothing of the ride. What I remember is being mercilessly teased that I needed to have help. I was just a little kid - maybe 5 or 6. I should have been grateful for someone else guiding me down the trail. I wasn't. I hated teasing then. I hate it today. 

 The real trauma occurred when I was around 11 or 12. I was visiting a friend at the Naval Air Station. Back then kids could roam around without fear of being kidnapped, especially on a military installation.  My friend suggested we go horseback riding. It is beyond me why I ever said yes. But I did. So we walked over to the stables and I soon found myself on top of a rather sluggish looking nag.  With no instructions other than what I saw on Saturday cowboy shows, I had no idea what to do once I was in the saddle.  Looking like a red-headed Elizabeth Taylor who knew her way around horses, my friend, Vickie Brooks, took hold of her reins and trotted off. I only recall standing there. Maybe the horse was eating some grass, or maybe he was waiting for me to say giddy up. Whatever - we didn't move. Then for no reason I knew then, and still can't fathom now, the nag I was on turned into the Lone Ranger's stallion chasing bad guys across the plains. I heard nothing. But the horse who suddenly doubled in size, must have heard someone say "Hi Ho Silver Away." All of a sudden the dang thing was tearing down the road, through the brush and into some nearby woods. I'm sure I was screaming. I'm equally sure screaming did nothing to help the situation. In my mind the ride rivaled Paul Revere's midnight race through the Massachusetts countryside. A sever case of situational amnesia followed, and maybe a little PTSD. I don't remember ever getting off the horse, getting back to my friend's house, what happened to that horse or how I regained my ability to breathe. To this day, the whole incident remains a blur, unless/until I get within six feet of any kind of equine.  

I've decided for my birthday I'm going to get up close and personal with a horse. A kind, gentle, preferably, old horse.   One that is too tired to do more than walk in a circle connected to a wagon wheel.  It's not the ride I'm going for. It's the conversation I want to have with myself about the horse. I want to stand next to it. Touch it. Pat it.  Sit astride it. And tell myself I don't have to be afraid anymore.  

Chances are Sweetie will still think I'm a control freak. But who knows. Maybe I'll take up flying next.
Merry ME

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