You hear it all the time. Surrender to what is. Let go of your need to control the future. Be here now.
Yeah? Well, F*ck that. Seriously. Complete surrender in life works about as well for me as when I try to completely control life. I go bat shit crazy when I think I have no control over the future. I go equally bat shit crazy when I try to control all aspects of the future.
So what’s the secret? Compromise. We can choose which aspects of our lives to control while surrendering to others. Think of your child going off to kindergarten for the first time this year (or off to college). Can you control who s/he talks to? Can you control which games s/he plays on the playground? Can we control which snacks s/he eats? Can you control what others say to her? No, no, no, and no. Can we try? Sure. We can become the world’s most annoying classroom volunteer. We can write to the teacher and the other parents until the sight of our email address in their inbox has them running from their laptop. In the end though, the results are the same. We can not control our kids actions, environments, or what others say to him/her.
Why do we want to control these things? Fear. We’re afraid.
We’re afraid of what our child will feel if someone says something mean to her. We’re afraid of what our child will feel if someone doesn’t let him play the game at recess. We’re afraid of what her blood sugar will do if she eats that (gasp!) high fructose corn syrup. Fear is at the root of our need to control. Think of your child going off to college. You may be afraid of which party she’ll go to, if class will be too challenging, if she’ll remember to do her laundry, or simply, if he’ll be sad. Here’s the rub: We have no control over these things. We have no control over what others will feel or think. What we do have is control over how these things affect us. Ask yourself: what will happen if he doesn’t get to play the recess game? What’s the worst thing that will happen if class is too challenging?
Unexamined fear is paralyzing. Choose to question it. And question it. And question it again. If class is too challenging, what’s the worst that will happen? He’ll drop out of that class. Then what? He’ll drop out of school. Then what? He’ll sit on the couch for the rest of his life. Oh really? How likely is that to happen? Seriously? Once we question and question and question our fear, we get to a point where the fear loses it’s power over us. That’s where surrender steps in.
I’ve found that when I consciously choose where and how to surrender and when I choose how and what I control, I feel much more peaceful than when I try to control everything or surrender to everything. Life is a balancing act that, while not in perfect balance each day, it balances out over time. Some days we will spend more time working than mothering. Some days we’ll miss out on sleep in order to have a magnificent date night with our partner.
What does this compromise look like in real life?
- I can control what food they snack on in my house and choose not to think about what they snack on in school.
- As a divorced mom, I can surrender to what they’re allowed to do when they’re at their dad’s house and control my own house rules.
- I can provide a nurturing, supportive home where they can talk about their feelings when they get excluded on the playground.
Letting go of control and surrendering not only feels better, but actually brings me closer to my kids. Instead of bugging them about what they ate, when they used their phones at dads, or who said what at recess, I spend time with them listening not lecturing. Instead of questioning them on the minutiae of their life, I send them the message that I trust them to make decisions and handle the results.
Where are you trying to control in your life? How does that feel?
Shift your focus to what you can control.
Surrender to what you can’t.
Enjoy the results.