LETTERS FROM LOVE — With Special Guest Abby Wambach!
On surrendering (the illusion of) control
Update: Hi again, everyone! Remember that time, about an hour ago, when I sent you all a message about how we need to let go of the desire to control all the details of our lives? Well anyway, apropos of nothing, there was a technical glitch and Abby’s video had no audio . . . I think we’ve figured it out, so here’s the whole shebang again. (I wonder what will happen next!)
Thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you. When we started this community, I had good reason to suspect that it would grow into a friendly, welcoming place for like-minded souls minus the downsides of social media — after all, we are a self-selecting group of people working toward the same objective of self-compassion. We are communally willing to be vulnerable and truthful. We are putting our innermost insecurities, our losses and victories, our yearning out there in front of strangers. So I knew this space would be sweet and special. But holy moly! I am overwhelmed by its power. You are the kindest, most curious and supportive group of humans in the world. You are extraordinary, and you’re the reason I look forward to our church gatherings every Sunday! Go us!!
Every week, I read every one of your lovely letters, and surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), I’m finding that common themes emerge. In the last few days I’ve been thinking about how many of us struggle with control. Celestine wrote about the familiar “desperation to see the GPS route to future destinations.” Jane reminded us that “you can’t build up your life like an architect builds a home. Stop building and planning. Start letting go, and feeling and breathing.” Stop planning. Start breathing. Because as we all know, only occasionally do plans have a linear beginning, middle, and end that pan out exactly according to the blueprint.
I have worked for years to quell the part of my brain that tries so very hard to convince me that everything would fall apart unless I made all the decisions. And I’ve come to learn that I must substitute my need, the very common and human need, for control, with trust first (because if I’m not in charge, I must trust that whoever or whatever is in charge has got this). And if you can get yourself there, it can be a short but highly entertaining skip to my second substitute: curiosity. If I haven’t written today’s script, how’s it going to end? It took a while for me to realize that, in fact, I never was in control. I just thought I was. We all think we are. But something interesting happens when you force yourself to step back: the day or the idea or the trip or the whatever looks different than you’d have planned it, but it’s not (as we always seem to fear) worse. It’s just different. And different is so often pretty interesting.
As I was pondering all this a few days ago, I KID YOU NOT, I boarded a plane to Mexico City that at the last moment had to turn around because a volcano was spewing ash, and it wasn’t safe to land. I found myself in Houston, Texas — wrong city, wrong country — and texted a friend “I wonder what will happen next!”
Look, I’m still a work in progress, but I’ve come a long way from thinking I had to be the one to fly the plane in the first place. And it’s a lot calmer in this place. In the end, all that happened is that I missed one meal in Mexico (which: I know). The volcano cooperated long enough for us to land and I got to where I was meant to be exactly when I was meant to be there.
So my friends, try being a passenger. Take something off your to-do lists. And when you do, observe that day still turned to night and night still turned to day. And be good to yourselves!
Dear Love, what would you have me know today?
My glinting little crumpled piece of foil from a gum wrapper: look at you shine, even when you think you’re all used up. Sweet busy, busy girl — sit for a moment, and listen for my voice. Steady your breath, quiet your hustle, and be with me for a moment.
There are a few lessons that you have been teaching and modeling to others for many years that you yourself still struggle with. And that’s okay. The reason you became a teacher and an example of these topics is because they are the hardest things for you. That’s how it works! That’s how we find our teachers.
But can I remind you of a few of the lessons now that you teach to others that you might need to remember?
You are loved and worthy even when you think you have failed — there’s one.
It’s okay to leave certain relationships behind when they become too painful to endure — there’s another.
You don’t have to create every single day in order to be a creator. How many times have you told this to others? Can you believe it of yourself?
You’re not being graded on your performance — that’s a good one!
And how about this? The most relaxed person in the room is the one who holds all the power. And what kind of power? Wisdom, grace, serenity, spirit. And how do we become relaxed, my precious one? What do you tell everyone? Is it by getting everything on the checklist done? Is it by winning? Is it by keeping everyone in your life pleased with you at all times? Is it by nailing it, day after day? Lololololol — no.
We relax, as you well know, my dear, only when we surrender to the futility of control. Only when we surrender over the dream of someday knowing how to do everything right. We grow relaxed only when we stop asking why, and only when we stop trying to figure it all out. We relax only when we say to our own understandings of the universe: “Here, you do it. You do it.”
My baby possum, let life do it. Let life take care of life for a minute and see what happens. Surrender, allow, surrender, allow.
Sit quietly with me in this moment, my child. There is more going on than you could ever understand. And we need you involved in less of it than you would ever believe. Just be, my little flutter-by. Just be.
I’m right here, and I love you.
This week, I encourage you to meditate on one person, place, or thing that you find yourself trying to control, and really contemplate why you feel that impulse. What would happen if you pulled back, if you let go of control — or, more accurately, the illusion of control? It takes practice to cede that illusion and your own perceived power. I know. I know. But this week, my dearest, just start.
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