It was 2 am, and I was lying awake in bed riddled with anxiety. My mind, totally out of my control, raced a mile a minute. Every conceivable fear, once tucked away in the recesses of my being, had suddenly awakened, and now played like a ticker tape across the inside of my head. A manic version of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”, my imagination played out every terrible scenario that could happen as one action impacted the next. My fears related to my work, responsibilities, my children, my grandchild, the pandemic, climate change, politics, family, etc. Most thoughts focused on the things out of my control or the things I felt I needed to control better. Nothing I could do would stop the anxiety rippling through my body. I tried moving to the couch, praying, walking, reading; nothing worked. My only resort was a sleeping pill.
The Source of Anxiety
Relying on sleeping pills was not a habit I wanted nor a reasonable solution or coping mechanism for me long term. After further analyzation I realized that “control”, or the lack thereof, was the culprit of my anxiety. I believed the lie that I am in control; I make a good decision and things go well. I make a bad decision and I suffer the consequences and sometimes those around me do as well. With this as a core belief along, with the high expectations I regularly place on myself, I unconsciously have created a ticking time bomb inside my psyche. The pressure builds as I focus more and more on making perfect decisions and staying on top of all areas of my life. Ultimately, my unspoken truth is that I determine my destiny.
When everything is right in the world and in mine, a sense of order and control provides a calm within me. I believe I am in control and commend myself for a job well done. But chaos arises when outside factors beyond my control bombard me from every direction. I have no control over a pandemic that seems to have no end, and to the loss and suffering of friends and family as a result. I have no control over what family members will or will not be vaccinated. In addition, I feel threatened by weather patterns that appear to be accelerating in impact and occurrence leaving whole communities is disrepair and families with the struggle of consistently rebuilding. I feel overwhelmed by a prevailing veil of evil that cloaks the world in which we live. From those who kill without conscious to the intolerance and hatred projected constantly on social media, the extent of darkness is unnerving. Suddenly, the perceived control is gone, and my anxiety rushes back in.
Living with constant anxiety isn’t healthy and can eventually impact a person’s ability to make good choices, cope, relate to others and may even shorten life expectancy. But inner peace, for me, and perhaps you, seems to be allusive, unattainable, a beautiful memory or a distant goal. However, I want peace more than ever before. So, I won’t give up on pursuing it until I am living in it! Releasing control, for me, is the first step in the journey toward a more peaceful existence. When I change my core belief to be “God is in control”, the pressure lessens. I begin to rest as I place trust in a higher being who directs and orchestrates the events of my world and all of creation. It’s like when you find yourself trying to complete a task beyond your abilities or intellect. Just when you are frustrated and ready to give up, a friend with expertise steps in and takes over. Confidently, she reassures you that she’s got this.
This shift in perspective provides me with peace because recognizing I am only a player on the team, not the owner nor the manager, allows me to focus on myself and not my circumstances. I can begin to live life one day at a time, leaning into hard conversations with love and compassion. I can find joy in special moments before they slip away. I can pursue contentment by embracing thankfulness. I can focus on hope for the future and make plans expectantly. I can live the life I’ve been given without regrets or resentment. This is the life I want!
The reality is that embracing and exercising this mental discipline to release control is extremely difficult. I generally hold tightly to any type of control that is placed into my hands. I enjoy the feeling of directing my path, creating, developing and inspiring others. All are gifts meant to be used but when I become consumed with the responsibility and hold tightly to all control the anxiety returns. My motivation to relinquish the control is seeing myself as a conduit to another’s plans and dreams. I find peace when I let go and trust completely in the work of a master craftsman. I try to understand but I realize that in this life I may never completely comprehend why things happen. As I become comfortable with resting in trust, the mental discipline of releasing control becomes easier.
Trusting will never be easy for me. My default by nature is control, stress, anxiety in that exact order. But knowledge and insight are powerful tools, and I am willing to do the work needed to find a more peaceful lifestyle. I’ll take it one day at a time and remind myself to let go, breath deeply and trust that more capable hands hold my future and my destiny.