Damn, this is hard, I thought. I laid on the bench, struggling to remember all of her instructions as I pushed the bar up as straight as possible. Of course this is hard. Bench pressing isn’t meant to be easy. Shut up and focus! I have to shout to myself internally otherwise I’d lay here all day debating the best way to get this bar up. I felt the bar wobble left and right until I finally got the balance needed to cleanly get it straight up and down. By the end of the set, I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I was able to get a few in that were controlled and stable. A few is better than none and next time it’ll be better. Perfect control is the goal. At least in my head.
Out of the gym, this idea of control takes on different meaning. I constantly feel like I’m on a tightrope where I wobble from side to side on how far I should stick my neck out to change my circumstances. It’s like someone else has control of the wheel and I’m left a bystander to my own life passing by before my eyes. I’m totally helpless in this scenario. But I’m also blameless, and this is where I fight myself. I’m totally to blame here for not taking control of my life. No one else has the power to change my thoughts and force my hand except for me. But… do I really have control? What does control really mean anyway? And more importantly, do any of us have true control in our lives or are we just deluding ourselves?
I’ve recently started an intensive exploration into my fears and attitude via a forty-day program that incorporates meditation, affirmations, and writing. I’ve never really tried anything like this and I figured now was as good a time as any to proactively change my thoughts so that I can finally feel in control. Again, perfect control is the goal, right?
Well, the thing is, in less than a week I’ve started to question the very idea of who or what has the power to influence my actions and create change. The obvious answer is, I do. But how much power do I really have? Or rather, where do I draw the line between what I have the power to control versus the influence a situation or experience has on my mind or emotions? I mean, I’m not a robot. Sometimes things happen and I’m going to react in that moment the way that feels natural, be it anger or shock or amused. How can I control that or why would I want to? Aren’t those experiences what forces me to learn and eventually grow? Everything shouldn’t culminate in some foregone conclusion where I can already determine my feelings simply because I have control. That seems….unnatural.
Yet, here’s where that tightrope plays a role and why I wobble. I admit that I do have control over my actions and some of those actions include the thought process that goes with. But maybe control isn’t the right word.
Let me take a step back here. Here’s how Merriam Webster defines control in the form I’m using it:
con·trol verb \kən-ˈtrōl\
a : to exercise restraining or directing influence over :regulate
b : to have power over : rule
c : to reduce the incidence or severity of especially to innocuous levels <control an insect population> <control a disease>
Each of these definitions points to direct and immediate influence over something by exerting power. Control, in essence, is a tool of power. If I try to translate this to my predicament, I assume this would mean that in order to be in control, I would need to display unflinching power towards my mind and all of its ruminations so that I could force a desired outcome, which in my case, the desired outcome is true happiness. It’s a bit like making your mind a totalitarian state where your conscious mind plays dictator with your subconscious mind so that you can pull your ego into check and do whatever it is you need to do to achieve your goal. Sure, it’s an extreme metaphor, but this is extremely important and it puts things in perspective. So what happens when you aren’t successful? What happens when the subconscious fights back or the power isn’t total enough to influence your conscious mind the way you want? If you follow my metaphor, you can only imagine the consequences.
In some ways, I already know the answer. Trying to control my mind has been, and in some ways, always will be a losing war. I beat myself up each time I fail and it becomes a sick cycle with repeated acts and repeated punishments. I admit, this is insane. Like I said, I’m not a robot and it’s unnatural to try to force your mind with the intent of total control over its processes. Besides, don’t I always point out that the mission of this blog and really, the point of everything, is to acknowledge that I’m on a journey, and a big part of that journey is the gradual process of figuring things out based on my experiences? As desperate as I am for change in order to fully embrace happiness in my life, I can’t dismiss the journey. And unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) that’s going to take time and forgiveness. Lots of it.
Here’s another word to consider:
choose verb \ˈchüz\
transitive verb1 a : to select freely and after consideration <choose a career>b : to decide on especially by vote : elect <chose her as captain>2 a : to have a preference for <choose one car over another>b : decide <chose to go by train>intransitive verb1: to make a selection <finding it hard to choose>
2: to take an alternative —used after cannot and usually followed by but <when earth is so kind, men cannot choose but be happy — J. A. Froude>
Emphasizing the point that making a choice means that you’re doing so freely after doing due diligence and weighing the options, I can conclude that this is not only a better word but a more worthy one in relation to my goal. It doesn’t require inhuman power over the mind nor does it ignore all the parts that make up your journey. It nudges you to look around and decide for yourself what the alternative would look like if you took a different course. I would argue that the act of choosing gives you more power than the act of control because it requires more effort and I think, it demands more of your heart.
I can choose to get out of bed to write that cover letter or send an email instead of procrastinating by watching another episode of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix (FRACK!). I can choose to accept that invitation to meet up with a friend instead of staying at home to wallow in self-pity. I can choose to sit and write down what I’m feeling instead of reaching for food to drown out my emotions. I can choose to take a risk on something new instead of standing still, unhappily repeating the same things each day. It’s the power of choice that I should embrace and consider more keenly as I seek to rebuild and strengthen my relationship with myself.
When I look back and view my life with all of its ups and downs, I’m hoping to see how the decisions I’ve made were done out of hope and happiness and not out of fear. I’m hoping that will outweigh the bad and allow me to see that I’ve been happy all along simply because of the very act of choice. I’m not there yet, and it still feels far away. But today I’m choosing to see that control is just an illusion and that with time I can relinquish the idea of control in favor of the positive influence of love.
ADDENDUM: Upon discussing this post with one of my close friends, I came to a couple of realizations. When I sit down to write these posts, they’re mostly ‘figured out’ as I’m committing the words to the screen. I don’t plan them out and it usually makes it way out of my head as a stream of consciousness that I try to translate in a way that makes sense. It was awesome to continue this process after I published with a trusted friend. So I decided to come back and share the most recent stream, unedited, with you. Perhaps it takes things one step further. I choose to think it does. 🙂
Pearl: I love the forgiveness piece that you’ve been talking aboutme: yeah thanks…forgiveness fridays!its the hardest partPearl: 🙂so trueme: between that and overcoming the fearridiculously hardPearl: I honestly don’t even know what it really feels liketo forgiveme: yeah?yeah me eitherwere so hard on ourselvesu knowone thought i had, a dark thoughtthis weekwas that i dont remember the last time i felt happylike truly happyand i dont know really what to think of thatbuti guess part of what im exploring are the semantics and what words meanhow to define them and what weight to give them in my lifePearl: I like that…especially with words like happy and success we’re so influenced by what the world tells us that looks likePearl: by happy do you mean a certain “lightness in being”i think i associate happiness with calm and lightness in the way i walk in the worldand that has a large part with my thoughts about myselfand how i react to the worldnow you got me thinking about this 🙂me: lolyeah i havent gotten around to defining “happy” yetbut i know i don’t feel in the “light”and i haven’t in a long timei experience moments of goodbut a perpetual state of good or happiness is…elusiveand thats because of fearthe fear has become….everythinglike a canceri think what i struggle with when it comes to control is this idea that i need to change my thoughts and pick myself up to get shit doneand i constantly refuse toout of laziness or indifference or procrastination or whateverand then i punish myself for thatbut again, semanticscontol inherently ties in with negative meaning and associationschoice doesn’t shirk responsibility and the flexibility of choice brings with it more consequenceshmm..something i shouldve put in the blog postbutthe point is that in some ways i need to take pressure off my back while also applying more of the responsibility on my shouldersits a give and takealmost a 1:1but going from dark to light…hai like the way im descrbing thisa lot of these thoughts are so organic, its funnyPearl: why is it funny?you’re a wise owlme: lollike the potato chips
Share you upsides and read others on Bonnie’s page, Recipes Happen, each Saturday.
Stay warm, stay positive, forgive yourselves, and keep paying it forward. 🙂