I’ve never thought of myself as a control freak. The phrase itself has always brought to my mind images of alphas, who typically have high expectations of others that are nearly impossible to meet, and/or are very rigid about the way in which they need to experience life. Since I tend to have low expectations of others and nearly impossible expectations of myself, and am not easily ruffled by every day events not going as planned, I have never put myself in the category of one of these people who has their fists clenched tightly around life’s throat.
Interestingly though, I recently read that most control freaks have tremendous anxiety. Guess what? I’ve had anxiety all of my life. I also read that control freaks are typically insomniacs. Hmmm… I’ve also been a chronic insomniac since I was a kid. Actually, for a great deal of my life I had an actual fear of falling asleep. Like, as I would start to fall asleep, I felt like I was falling off a building, and would gasp awake.
*** stands up and raises her hand ***
Hi, I’m Anj Granieri. And I’m a passive (not active) control freak.
…..Laugh with me folks. This what they call enlightenment.
I’ve always found it amazing and even, amusing, to have these revelations about myself. I’ve lived almost 34 years in this body and mind, and you would think that I would know something so fundamental about who I am. Yet, somehow it escaped me till now, as if it were a blind spot in my consciousness. That is why I find these light-bulb moments ( even when they reveal ugly things) to be like little unexpected presents left for me by God. Now that I’m armed with the knowledge, I can choose how to deal with it.
I call myself a passive control freak because I tend to be passive about the way in which I WANT to control the universe; I.E. in the state of worrying and anxiety. I may not actively try to control others, but that doesn’t keep me feeling tremendously unsteady and uneasy about life in general.
Now, there’s a required zen to living with an persisting, life-long challenge like TBI. Any chronic condition makes the waters of life tumultuous at best, and we… the survivors and caregivers find ourselves at its mercy. Sometimes we are drowning in the dark. Other times the sun is shining, the sea feels calm and we smoothly glide through the water on our backs. One thing is for certain, it never stays one way for very long. I have found that the TBI waters can change several times a DAY.
For a very long time, I tried to direct the tide and fight the rip-currents with my need to control. To me, this made sense. After all, Patrick was horrifically injured and I wanted him to be well again. I knew a lot about what that would take, and so I took the helm and tried to guide the way. But there is a fine line between guiding and forcing, just as there is between being proactive about your destiny, and being too passive to enact any real change. Finding the balance and sweet spot here, is key.
I find that if I let myself, I can worry myself into a panic attack about almost anything. I worry that Patrick will have a seizure. I worry he will fall again and this time, hit his head and get a second TBI. I worry that he’ll emotionally struggle to the point of depression again. I worry that he’ll get MS, or Parkinson’s or early-only dementia. I worry we won’t make it financially. I worry one or both of us will break the other’s trust in some irreparable way. I worry he’ll use drugs and alcohol. I worry he’ll stop progressing, and the struggles he faces daily will weigh on him and make him perpetually unhappy. I worry and worry and worry. And I push. I push him to play drums. I push him to use his Music Glove. I push him to practice his gait-training with me. Just as I pushed him every step of the way to do things he was struggling to do at the time. And again, though it was to a great extent the pushing, fueled by worry (a.k.a a passive desire to control), that we made so much progress, I still find myself wondering: Where the balance is between pushing, and letting things just unfold?
I regularly tell newbies that if you can make room for the TBI, and sort of get out of the way of the process, it will be the greatest teacher of your life. This isn’t something you do all at once, but like so many other things in life, it is a slow, gradual changeover; a remodeling of who you are. I make sure to let these newcomers know, that while I’m advising it, I am in no way a master of it. I am still in the process of doing it. And for me, it everything to do with letting go of anxiety and worry.
When you have been impacted by a serious and devastating trauma, letting go is so extremely difficult. Yet this surrendering is essential to healing. For instance, in order for me to get adequate rest, I have to fall asleep. In order to fall asleep, I have to let go. As I read recently in a passage from a book, in order for my body’s healing system to take over, I must trust and hand myself over to the forces of nature at night so I may be restored, recharged, and renewed by sleep. So it is with my desire to control our TBI life. I must let go, for my own healing, and maybe even Patrick’s to occur.
Fighting the tide doesn’t work. Swimming against the rip-current will not either. Being “zen” means to be a cork in the water; floating, bobbing, and breathing. When the skies are clear and blue, glide through the water and swim towards the place you want to be. YOU MUST SWIM TOWARDS YOUR DESIRED DESTINATION WHEN YOU CAN. But you also must float when the tides get rough, and when the skies get dark. And when the current pulls you in a direction you don’t want to go, instead of trying to stay in place or go back, again.. please, float. Trying to control every outcome of every situation is completely exhausting. The reality of not floating means unending suffering. Take it from me.
So to all my fellow active and passive control freaks. Here’s what you gotta do.
Be a cork in the water. Just float baby, float.
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Thank you. All our love, Anj & Patrick)