So the plan for Tuesdays moving forward is to embark on something I’m going to call Tuesday Tangents. Another thing that I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one in the world that this happens to (other than loving brunch) is fixating on something completely random for any period of time, sometimes for no reason at all. This could be for five minutes or five days. Sometimes it’s no big deal, but other times it consumes every single thought I have until I feel like I can’t take it anymore. For me, that thing lately has been the concept of control.
When I was in college and going through a crazy time in my life, my mom told me that: “You can’t control what others do, but you can control how you respond.” Along those same lines I’ve often heard the quote that goes something like, “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control what you do and think about it.” Pretty brilliant stuff and super obvious when you really think about it, but seems almost impossible to do in the moment. I am the absolute queen of over-thinking things and fixating on the actions of others and I know it. When I sit down to write about this all those worries seem so ridiculous and insignificant, but they sure don’t in the moment.
Something else that’s gotten even worse for me lately is worrying about controlling things before I even know for sure they’re going to happen.
Example: Maybe one of my friends will get married this summer; that’s exciting! But I’m awkward at weddings and I hate large crowds. I’m going to be so weird. Everyone is going to think I’m nuts standing there in the corner and not dancing. What will I wear? Will it be too hot? Maybe they can just get married in the fall instead and then I have more time to prepare. Or maybe they’ll hate me by then and we won’t even be friends anymore and I won’t have to worry about this at all. But then why would they stop being friends with me? Am I a bad friend? Did I do something wrong? Oh look, they’re texting me to go get dinner now.
It sounds absolutely insane typing out that paragraph, but those are truly some of the thoughts that go through my head on a very regular basis. It’s exhausting, and I know I can’t be the only one who feels that way about things. Whether it’s large crowds/events/being alone/worrying about the safety of those you love like it is for me, or it’s something else for you like work, your marriage, your kids, your house, etc. It can be anything.
So here are some of the things that have kinda, sorta helped me to deal with that lately:
- Actually making a list (usually in my phone, sometimes on paper) of the things that I am currently worrying about controlling. This helps me to keep track of things instead of running through the list in my head over and over. And sometimes typing out a worry actually helps to realize how silly it is and get rid of it entirely (but like, 1 out of 20 times maybe).
- Reading a book. At least for a while, it gets my mind off of the issue and helps me to focus on something else. And if it’s a really good book, sometimes I get to worry about the character’s problems instead of my own. 😉
- Talking to my mom. Because she puts everything in perspective and helps me to really open up my eyes and see when I am acting like a nut.
- Just doing something. Usually when I get in one of these moods, I am just sitting around thinking about what is bothering me. If I can just get up and go run an errand or get some work done or do a load of laundry, it helps me to re-align my mind with what is going on in the present-day and quit thinking so much about what could possibly happen in the future.
- Being outside. Something about the fresh air just seems to automatically bring about a new perspective.
One of my favorite books/movies is Eat, Pray, Love. It is really about traveling and finding yourself, but to me it’s more about letting go of control. It is about a woman who goes through a divorce to realize she has no idea what she’s doing with her life, so she goes to Italy, India, and Indonesia to try and figure it out. Everywhere she goes (but especially in Italy) she is taught that the priorities that she has always aligned her life with in America are so dissimilar to what most people relate to in other countries. One of my favorite quotes from the book is:
Although I don’t think I could ever get a tattoo, I’ve thought about getting that tattooed on me more times than anything else. The sweetness of doing nothing. Do you know how often I partake in the sweetness of doing absolutely nothing? Probably never. There is always some thought running through my mind, some text to be answered, or some show to catch up on.
I was fortunate enough to be able to study abroad in Italy during my undergrad years of college and saw this play out first-hand. The Italians are famous for three-hour lunches, afternoon naps, sitting outside and watching the sunset with their loved ones, drinking enormous amounts of good wine, embarking in careers that are fulfilling and make you feel good, and beautiful hospitality. A list that I for one want to replace my current priority/responsibility list with!
I learned a similar lesson in Costa Rica where I worked with people who had next to nothing, but were more than satisfied with their lives. They had no (visible) worry about controlling their circumstances and were instead focused on being the happiest, kindest, most hospitable people they could be.
Eat, Pray, Love taught that it’s okay to just sit. To just be and think. I think this may be one of the keys to learning to stop trying to control everything. If we can learn to control our own minds, we can probably learn how to shut that switch off, relax, and let it go.
What is currently stuck in your head that you can’t get rid of?