Series Three: Blog 36
We live sophisticated lives. People multitask and move about with jet speed. When things don’t go as planned we obsess about fixing what is broken. The amazing world of technology has helped to fix many things. We call people around the world on our cell phones. We text our messages and have conversations back and forth with people in various areas of the globe. I have planted new sod in my backyard. Today I am traveling and am concerned about the need to continue to water the new sod while I am gone. No problem. I simply purchased a timer for my water hose with a wand and can start and stop it with an app on my phone. Farmers in western Kansas who till thousands of acres operate their irrigation systems in the same manner. Today’s technology is amazing!
However, technology fuels an illusion that we have a sense of control when we really don’t. With all the gadgets, apps and evolving automation that is present in our world, we have precious little control over the people we love. If only we could make them robots and do exactly what we programmed them to do! But, it doesn’t work that way. When children choose to disobey or live a lifestyle which we disapprove, no matter how hard we try we cannot make them do what we think is best. Yet we try so hard! We deceive ourselves into believing that if we caretake, our loved ones eventually do what we want them to. We tell ourselves they will be so glad and grateful that we paved the way for them. Like Ralphie in the Christmas Story who daydreamed that he would be the teacher’s star pupil and be adored and loved by her and every other student in class, we have to wake up and smell the coffee. You cannot control anyone other than your own attitude and actions in life. It is a simple but powerful reality.
Most people don’t believe this. If I set the alarm, I can remind my husband to go to the AA meeting. I will set all of his medication in a daily pill box next to his bed on the nightstand, and then he will not forget to take his meds. Surely, if I remind him how old he is, he will realize he cannot do what the doctor has already warned him not to do. If I walk on eggshells, then maybe she won’t blame me for everything under the sun! With fury I will rag and nag on my loved one about their sugar intake when the doctor told them that as a diabetic they will need to change their relationship with sugar! But, it never works! Yet, we continue to do more and more of what was never effective. Still, we trudge on thinking that this time or perhaps today my loved one will see what they never saw before and change their ways. There is not gadget, app or other form of technology to make you let go of what you cannot control. Control is as addictive as any process or substance ever was. I know people who have lost their health and their very lives intent on controlling what they cannot. Gabor Mate in his book The Body Keeps the Score shared his research of women and men whose poor health with cancer and autoimmune diseases were correlated to their extreme codependent behavior. They were trying to control what they cannot control to the extreme.
Listen to yourself. It’s not the behavior of the other guy that is driving you crazy, it’s you! When you stop and listen to yourself, you hear the lament and complaint that has built to a level of explosion inside you. With exasperation, you tell yourself no matter what you do, you can’t get h/her to do what is right. You are correct. So why do you keep doing what doesn’t work and what causes you to burn emotional BTU’s and even destroy your health? They are not the problem anymore. You are because you won’t simply surrender and let go of trying to control what you cannot. You need a reality check. Go to a Codependency Anonymous (CODA) 12-step meeting, or an Adult Children’s Anonymous (ACA), or an Al-Anon meeting. Listen to what people who struggle with what you are battling and simply do whatever they tell you.
Let Go of what you cannot control! Letting go is like jumping off a 60-foot cliff into a lake. It’s far enough to think about it on the way down. No one wants to experience the sensation of free falling. Grasping for thin air is not only exasperating, it is scary as hell. It is overwhelming and you won’t be able to do it yourself. You need to go a meeting, sit down listen to the stories, tell your own, and then with cursing, tears and resignation simply surrender to a Higher Power. It is simple but who said simple fits with easy?
Build boundaries to care for yourself not to control the other person. By now your intelligence tells you that what you are doing is ridiculous. It tells you that if you operated your professional life with the strategy you are trying to control a loved one’s behavior, you would have been fired a long time ago. So stop and build a boundary with consequences to take care of you. There are no boundaries without consequences. You only have a request. You haven’t set boundaries which is why you are in the predicament you are in. So, sit with your 12-step support group and ask them to help you figure out the boundaries you need to establish around the issue of control that has rendered you stuck. Carefully consider appropriate consequences that fit the situation and that you are willing to follow through with. This is the toughest step with surrender. It will trigger all the abandonment issues that you ever had. Lean into the fear and pain of abandonment. If you need to take a timeout and do inpatient work on your own stuff, then do it. Unless you face and address your historical abandonment and neglect issues you won’t follow through with boundaries. Boundaries are life-giving. You can lecture about them to your loved one, but they only become effective with quiet implementation on your part.
Simple surrender is seldom a one and done experience. Surrender is not like some Christians describe as being “born again”! Surrender requires daily practice. It becomes a daily exercise regimen that you practice every day. Learn to live your day in tight 24-hour compartments. Live out each day one hour at a time, practicing surrender each hour. Some days will be smeared with a lot of failure. You must take yourself by the nap of the neck and surrender the other person again and again. Your commitment must not be to perfection but to circling back and renewing your commitment, to let go of what you cannot control, and to never give up coming back to surrender.
Celebrate your brave step of surrender and enjoy the empowerment that it brings. Letting go is relieving and releasing a 900-pound gorilla from your back. It does feel like being “born again”. You will see life with renewed energy and perspective. Even though the challenges around you remain the same, you will be empowered to do what you need to do to care for yourself. Surrender is not letting go of caring for others. It is prioritizing self-care with effective life giving boundaries. Do it! You matter! No one is going to come and rescue you. You are the lifeguard. Save yourself and celebrate life.
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