Walking on Fresh Grass
Last week our youngest son proposed. Outside. On a day of torrential rain. On one wet knee.
The months of dry weather in sub-tropical Queensland where we live were recently broken by an outpouring of delicious water from the heavens that quickly turned the burnt grass green.
“Do you have a wet weather plan?” I asked a few days before the proposal.
“An umbrella” replied our son.
The videos had been made, the driver booked, her boss had been alerted, the dress bought, the flowers ordered, the clues for the treasure hunt to take her all over the city written. It had to happen outside: in the middle of botanical gardens framed by a lush, rainforest backdrop, under an ancient weeping spruce that gently caressed the waterholes on either side. Perfect.
Except for the rain.
For seven days leading up to the event I checked the weather forecast (six times a day). At night I couldn’t sleep. Pelting rain kept me awake. I could control everything! (Except the weather.)
I like being in control. Having everything go perfectly. Corrie ten Boom once said that “Hell is getting your own way all the time.” That quote makes me very uncomfortable when I’m trying to control everything around me. But it gives me great comfort when things go wrong.
Standing on our back deck watching the persistent rain the day before the event made me reflect on control. I like to control my children and their paths in life. I like to control events so they work out perfectly. I like to control what people say to each other during events. I like to control my husband: what he does, what he wears, what he says to other people. Christian joined me on the deck and together we gazed at bamboo branches labouring under a heavy assault of wind and rain.
“I am so controlling. I want to control everything.”
“We all want control” he replied.
“Yes but it really takes over my thinking. It consumes me. It’s not healthy.”
He then shared with me three types of control:
1. Controlling others for the greater good
2. Controlling others out of habit
3. Controlling others for our own gain
The best example of controlling for the greater good is bringing up children. Giving them boundaries. Teaching them right from wrong.
Controlling others out of habit is something I do with Christian all the time. What clothes he wears, what he should say in a difficult phone call, career choices. This is OK. Occasionally it hurts him, but there is no malice in it. It is predominantly unintentional and innocuous.
Controlling others for our own gain is the one we need to work on. It is intentional. It is manipulative. It is selfish. It ties you, and others, up in knots.
I have been getting really down on myself about my control lately. I guess I have realised how much it has not only hurt other people, but how I have ultimately found no joy in it. Understanding these three types of control has helped. The first two are OK and I shouldn’t beat myself up about them.
The third isn’t.
So how do you work on it? The starting point is realising that
You can’t change other people.
Just like I couldn’t change the weather.
Sometimes, when you surrender control, the miraculous happens. But sometimes not. We all wished for a glorious, fine day, but it rained.
I treasure one precious memory in my heart about that day: rain or shine, I’m still going to end up with a beautiful daughter-in-law.
Welcome to our blog. Each blog contains a little story of our journey and an insight drawn from Christian's 18 years of clinical experience as a psychiatrist. The central ideas are in bold. We post every fortnight and would love to hear your comments. Looking forward to travelling with you in this amazing journey called life.