I used to believe that my controlling behavior was harmless and propelled by my intention to ensure the best outcomes for everyone. Can anyone blame good-intentioned ol' me for wanting what's "best" for everyone? To desire justice, peace, harmony, kindness, productiveness, and acceptance seems "good." Doesn't it?
It's a mixed answer - yes and no.
It's definitely positive to have good intentions and wish happiness for others. However, attempting to exert control over everything, even the things that can't be controlled, leads to negative emotions like stress, anger, frustration, selfishness, subtle pride, combative behavior, and a sense of trying to be a savior.
Additionally, expanding our perspective on life involves recognizing that what we consider "best" may not always be the ultimate best. Thus, striving for the best possible outcomes for ourselves and others is driven by our limited life experiences and narrow viewpoints.
Then there is the very real issue that we have little control over the things that, at the root, are our fears. Despite following a healthy diet, stress-free lifestyle, effective parenting style, or preferred way of being, we cannot guarantee the prevention of premature death, happiness for our children, or an easy life. While we can make choices that increase the likelihood of positive outcomes, there are no guarantees.
I found the article about the illusion of control intriguing. It discussed the advantages and disadvantages of our perception of having more sovereignty than we do.
Riptide: Don''t Fight the Current
While reading a sign on the beach that gave survival tips if caught in a riptide, I noticed one of the steps advised against fighting the current. This is because fighting the current can cause exhaustion, leading to drowning. You must swim through it (left or right/parallel to the shore). Similarly, resisting the flow, avoiding challenging tasks, or suppressing difficult emotions can also be exhausting.
I have been reading, studying, and practicing surrender, submission, and acceptance as part of my healing process. I have found that trying to resist the natural flow of life leaves me feeling drained and weary.
My submission comes from growing deeper in my faith and my femininity.
As someone who takes inspiration from women, I admire those who possess confidence, gentleness, kindness, and grace. These women do not let their fears dominate them and instead choose to have faith and accept the fluidity of life. They seem grounded in the fullness of life - even during moments of frustration, discomfiture, or failure. In difficult situations, they can name that it is hard and feel all the complex feelings while also having faith that it will all work out for good - even if the outcome may differ from their own expectations. They have not let the toughness of life harden them, make them harsh or cynical, or leave them incapable of showing love. There is an acceptance that life has challenging moments, love can be tricky, people are flawed, and there is also beauty, inspiration, and joy. They are not afraid of attention but don't seek it because they are submitted to a higher authority than the opinions of others.
I am not discussing learned helplessness, passivity, nonchalance, or being a doormat. No, it's submitting and surrendering one's life to the Creator. Knowing that most things, people, and outcomes aren't controllable. A deep understanding that the acceptance and attention of others are not where her identity lies. There is a realization that she is not sovereign but has power in her choices - which wolf will she feed? Her wisdom is visible in creating and protecting boundaries, having self-discipline, and deciding who shares her time and energy. Accepting that some folks, tasks, and materials are beautiful and also take up too much time and energy. Surrendering to the quiet moments in life. Realizing that choosing to love when it's complicated, bend without breaking, and be kind when she has the force to be harsh is hard. Surrendering and submitting don't have to be passive and fearful- they can be active and brave.
Menstruation, the Follicular Phase, Ovulation, and the Luteal Phase
Surrendering and following the repetition and cycles of the seasons have been my practice for years (hence this website). Embracing the darkness of winter, the dry season of summer, the harvest of autumn, and spring's rainy season give me a sense of calm and comfort.
But the seasonal cycle isn't the only way I've practiced surrender and acceptance. I have always experienced some form of PMS and was prescribed birth control by two doctors - one at 18 years old (lasting four months) and another at 24 years old (lasting five months) to alleviate PMS. Both times the side effects brought me horrific hormonal changes.
And so I have had to "push through" my menstrual cycle - attempting to maintain a constant state of being. But in the fall of 2022, I started exploring my body's exercise requirements during all phases of my cycle. By carefully recording my emotions, physical sensations, cravings, and needs throughout the month, I learned to accept and surrender to energy fluctuations, hormonal changes, bloating, irritability, and shifts in appetite. I began to accept that trying to move at the same pace, with the same temperament, and with the same care was revolting against my body's needs. Pushing against my body's requirements often made me harsh, frustrated, critical, and hard. Embracing my femininity meant seeing my monthly fluctuations as a part of God's beautiful design vs. a state of weakness. Welcoming my natural flow didn't mean trying to find ways to change it or lying down in hopelessness. It meant slowly learning how to practice active surrender:
Making different choices in my diet.
Allowing for more self and spiritual care.
Adjusting my teaching, learning, reading, and social plans
Modifying my exercise routine.
Surrendering my weapons of defense - defensiveness, irritability, snappiness, getting loud - during the perceived conflict.
Well, after three days of slow writing, the article has become quite lengthy and it is time to publish. However, the upcoming articles will focus more on practicality and less on theory.
As always, Shalom, my friends.