by Andrea Chilcote
I was talking with a friend who, like me, turned fifty this year. After a lighthearted lament about physical aging, we shared one treasured outcome of this age: the settled-in quality that comes from knowing ourselves so well. We both agreed that regarding our many personality traits, good and bad, knowing and accepting ourselves is the most important thing.
Understanding what sparks our spirit as well as what pushes our buttons gives us the ultimate freedom, the ultimate control. We can choose to limit our experiences to those we prefer, or we can manage our reaction to those things (usually provoked by other people) that cause stress. Clearly this knowledge and subsequent liberty is not limited to those fifty and over. But it is an interesting phenomenon. At about this age, those who would hide their apparent flaws begin to admit their humanness, and those who would refrain from acknowledging their unique strengths begin to name them, out loud. Finally, because we have conscious awareness, we can control our experience of the world. Can you hear the choir singing “Hallelujah!”?
Toward the end of our conversation, my friend, who errs on the side of humility, declared: “One thing I’m not is controlling!” And thus began an afternoon of self-analysis regarding the issue of self-awareness… and control.
A master of self-control, I’ve never been one to try to control other people, perhaps because I would abhor the idea that someone would do that to me. But I have tried to control the universe, and anyone who knows me well would likely smile at this statement. During this 50th year, I learned that control is a myth. It is futile.
Perhaps trying to the control the universe – life and death, fate and providence – for fifty years simply makes one weary. Now I smile at the thought that I was ever in control of anything. Except my experience.
In one of my favorite passages from A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle speaks of the peace that comes from accepting the circumstances of the present moment, and the suffering that ensues if one’s focus is on what could have been or might be. I believe the same can be said of control. When one tries to control that which can’t be managed or directed, suffering results. Surrender gives us, paradoxically, the ability to control our reaction. We can choose to accept or resist, endure or avoid, judge or embrace.
My friend and I embrace the many blessings that define our lives, not the least of which are the unique traits – quirks included – that make us who we are. These very traits are what guided our many decisions and created the lives we live. We are happy in an imperfect world, mostly because we know who we are and what we contribute to others in small ways and large.
Is there a quality of your being, a quality uniquely you, that you could take out, brush off and embrace? Try it for an hour or a day – and notice how comforting the feeling. Surrender to the truth of it instead of trying to hide, change – or control it. Those around you might notice too.