When a child is raised in what they perceive to be an out of control situation (i.e. alcoholic father, mother who’s never home, parents who argue and fight, drugs…whatever), they learn to control what they are able to control. When they are little, it’s things like food, temper tantrums and bathroom habits. When they get older it can take on a life of its own and, in it’s own way, get out of control.
For me, it resulted in a very Type A personality for many years. I made every attempt to never be late for anything. I always left enough time to get where I need to be early. I had to win. Had to be the best at everything. When you looked up “over achiever” in the dictionary, there was a picture of me…likely next to an award or a trophy.
That level of control extended to my emotions as well. I grew up around women who cried on cue and usually to manipulate someone – so I tried never to cry. If I couldn’t control it, I cried in the shower or into my pillow. Never where anyone could see me and never with comfort from anyone else. Crying meant you were vulnerable and weak, and the last thing I ever wanted to be was vulnerable or weak. After all, if you were vulnerable and weak you could get hurt…I already knew what being hurt felt like – no need to explore that any further.
The problem with behavior like this is that you are always setting yourself up for failure. No one is perfect. As far as I know, the only human who ever came close to being perfect ended up being persecuted an subsequently died on a cross. And let’s face it, He’s a pretty hard act to follow.
So when you’re a perfectionist and you do something like, oh I don’t know, gain a pound or fifty or show up late for something because of traffic, or lose a promotion to someone, or…whatever, you will beat the hell out of yourself until you feel lower than that stuff you scrape off your shoe. (You know, the equivalent of a high school freshman.) You will also make everyone around you feel like they are walking on eggshells because you’re wound so damn tight the slightest tweak will set you off like a bottle rocket.
This is how I spent the first 40+ years of my life. Trying to be perfect, appearing to succeed but feeling like I had failed…over and over. By the time I turned about 45 I had reached the end of my rope. I was tired. I was failing. And finally…I just plain gave up.
And that’s when my drinking got out of control (not that it was really ever in control mind you…but I liked to think it was). Or better yet, that’s when I told myself I could handle it, I deserved it, I had it under control.
That’s when I lost control and started lying to myself.
But oh what sobriety and recovery has brought me!!! Not only am I sober, which is a miracle in and of itself, but I’m free. There are days I feel so light I could actually just glide away on the breeze. Believe me when I say that I have NEVER in my life felt that way. So at peace. So calm. So light and easy.
Someone actually described me the other day as Zen. WTF? Me? I’m the person people used to back away from because I was so intense. I was driven and you’d better get the hell out of my way or I’d run you over. Zen? I can hear my best friend L, laughing her ass off right now.
But here’s the funniest part…I am Zen. I’m chill. Centered. I’m in the light and I just want to stay here and breathe.
Here’s a great example. God made me wait a long time before I got this job and I know why. I wasn’t ready. While the pay is good, it’s still not where it was when I was laid off…in fact it’s way lower. I’ve taken two steps “down” in title. I’m not managing anyone. I’ve lost two weeks of vacation. I’m not on any one’s radar yet…I’m not an HP (high potential) yet.
Guess what? I…could…care…less. I will admit to a little sting when it came to title but that was just ego. The fact of the matter is, I am exactly where God wants me to be right now. And if He wants me here then here I am, thrilled with what I do and with whom I work and loving getting up every morning and going to work.
I have…finally…let go. I am no longer in, and do not want to be in, total control 24/7. I have finally vacated the driver’s seat and let God take over for awhile. I like riding shotgun.