Last night, I was catching up with a girlfriend. We were sitting at a table on the sidewalk of a bar where a jazz trio was playing. (Hugh Grant should have been strolling by at any moment.) She mentioned a man that’s got her feeling all atwitter.
She proclaimed loudly, “No! I don’t like feeling like such an awkward goofball!”
I shared with her that when I feel that way around a man, I know that I’m in the right place. It tells me it is a place where I can’t manage what parts of me someone sees, or play it cool. For me, though often vulnerable, it is one of the most liberating and alive experiences ever.
She looked sort of horrified.
And then, in a turn of events, she looks at me and says, “This is my favorite song, we are going to dance.” She grabbed my hand, pulled me up out of my chair, and led me all over the sidewalk while a whole bunch of people watched. (This is my own personal flavor of horrified…seriously!)
Two very different examples of being out of control…two very similar reactions.
- What will people think?
- Do I look stupid right now?
- I’m not dressed for this!
- I’m not a very good dancer…how will I know what to do?
- Will my friend be disappointed in my dancing?
There were many more, but they all amounted to me being afraid of being judged, or I was already judging myself.
This is why we resist being out of control. Because it’s hardly ever professional, appropriate, what’s expected, or what everyone else is doing. It is usually the opposite. And we judge the hell out of that. (Or we think others are judging the hell out of us for it.)
A different take on being out of control.
But there’s a different school of thought that says we actually like being out of control. It makes us feel alive and human, and less like robots.
Quick, name five of your favorite things! Mine: sex, rainstorms, swimming in the ocean, a meal someone else prepares for me, and surprises that I never saw coming.
Not one of these is able to be controlled by me. They all involve things outside of me (except for the sex part, but I’d say that the energy that gets created there is also bigger than me and out of my control.) So, as much as we cringe at the idea of not being in control, when we are willing to be out of control, it actually has the potential to bring some of the juiciest experiences into our lives.
So, instead of judging myself, I’ve been practicing owning my love of being out of control:
- I love that I’m so comfortable with myself that I’m willing to look stupid.
- The price of doing new things is potentially failing at new things…but dang, it’s fun to try new things.
- I love that my joy is more important than what others think.
- Every time I do something new or unexpected, I learn things about myself.
- Every time I do something new or unexpected, I give other people permission to do this too. (And that really just means more fun in the world.)
- Being out of control is a lot like making up a new game…sometimes it comes together nicely, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, we can always start again.
Here’s what I know.
After dancing on the sidewalk, I felt the blood in my cheeks, and more alive than I’d felt all day. Even though I wouldn’t have volunteered for that gig, I was so glad she pulled me into it.
I much prefer living a life of rosy cheeks and not knowing what will happen next to reliving every experience I’ve already had on repeat. It’s so much more fun. And free.
Getting good at being out of control.
We all find ourselves at one point or another feeling pretty out of control in our lives. We don’t know what will happen with our jobs, or our relationship, or something else that feels outside of our control.
And there are skills you can learn and use to both control the things you can and let go of the things you can’t. (Save me now, as it appears I’m paraphrasing the Serenity Prayer from AA…)
I’ll share more about it next week, but here’s a sneak peak. A dear friend of mine and I are planning a retreat in Bali at the end of November (the Thanksgiving long weekend, for the Americans in the house)…where you will learn these skills and practice letting go. So you can create both the safety to let go, and to find the enjoyment in being out of control.
If you’d like more dancing on the sidewalk, and more surprise and delight (instead of the doom and fear that often comes with being out of control), I’d love to have you along. If this is you, feel free to reply to this message and we can set up a time to chat about whether it’s a good fit.
Until then…make a note of the things you control in your life. Is it a long list? Is it a short list? What does being in control of the things on the list say about you? How does it define who you are?
And then…choose one thing, and see if you can just let go. Let go. And then when you feel yourself grab for it again…let go.