Driving Force


Before you report me to the local vehicular authorities, let me explain myself.

I have a problem with control.

As in, I strive for it far too much.

Dickens called Scrooge “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”  It’s not coins I’m clamoring for . . . but control?  Color me an addict.

The closer I look at this penchant for control, the deeper the reasons for it I find.  Abject terror of forgetting some important task that needs to be done.  Absolute overwhelm at the number of moving parts in any given day, week, month.  Stringent perfectionism for every task my mind or hands touch.

And yet, for all this toil and torment, I’m no closer to controlling the ins and outs of my days than I am to the bigger picture of my life.  If anything, these machinations cause me more grief.  In the drudgery of them, of course, but also in the false sense of security they provide.  Such a system is bound to implode, always on the edge of doing so, and when it does, of course, I blame myself for not keeping a handle on everything.

I’ve been working on that.

Controlling the minutiae of my day is not only tedious; it translates to an inability to trust in the direction God is leading me.  And while I am the one pulling the strings on the to-do list, I’ve lost an overarching belief in myself to craft a grand plan.

So instead of being entirely methodical (old habits die hard, right?), I’m going to try to get a little loosey goosey.  Try to dream faster than my Type A personality can plot.  Drift around the corners before my ass end can catch up.  Which is why this quote from Stirling Moss spoke to me.

You could argue that it is the perfect metaphor for the exact opposite of what I’m proposing.  To run away, get ahead of, keep a breakneck pace – and as someone with an internal tachometer often in the red, I certainly don’t need that sort of encouragement.  No, what I propose is acting on instinct, on the thrill of the moment, outdriving all the self-doubt and micromanaging – leaving the bottleneck of control behind and riding free and fierce into something I’d never allow myself if I stopped to measure the possible outcomes and fallout.

Now that’s something worth losing control over.

Driving Blind But in the Moment

[Writing is] like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
– E.L. Doctorow

A few summers ago, I sat in a writing workshop with the inimitable Kelly Easton that unexpectedly turned into a therapy session – perhaps most unexpectedly for her.

We’d been given an exercise to write a scene from our work in progress from the point of view of a secondary character rather than our protagonist. I love Ant. He’s so fun to write. His humorous and outrageous comments flow from a place that’s cheesy and cathartic at the same time. So he was my target voice.

When I read back my piece to Kelly and the others for feedback, she said she loved the energy and spontaneity of the beginning, but that lessened as it went on. It was, she said, as if I didn’t trust his voice, myself; that rather than letting the story go where it would, I clicked on that control switch, molding the plot to the overall plan I had in mind. That I was afraid to relinquish control.

The critique hit me like a ton of bricks. Not because she was wrong. Not because I can’t take criticism (at least from a trusted source 😉 ). But because Kelly’s critique applied to my entire life – not just my work in progress.

How often do we follow some preordained plan rather than functioning within and through the essence of our being? How often do we tick off the to-dos to achieve a goal rather than burning and glowing with the initial desire for it? How often do we rein ourselves in rather than galloping exuberantly forward?

For what?

Unless we’re acting recklessly, we will not crash. There’s a fair distance between joy and mania. Why are we so afraid to inhabit our joy? Are we afraid to feel it in advance of our perceived loss of it?

What’s the worst that could have happened in my story? Anthony would’ve surprised me? Would’ve taken the plot in a new and exciting direction? The writer me could’ve certainly looped him back around to my original story – or marvelled at an even-better blossoming of the plot.

The same applies to life. Long ago, a wise friend reminded me that when your dreams haven’t come true or prayers answered, perhaps it is because God has something even better in store for you. We need not see further than our headlights illuminate. Stubborn human nature makes us want to, but it’s not necessary to survival and success – and certainly not to our happiness.


Why do we not let ourselves be held?

Are we afraid of the fallout?

Of the softening
that occurs with the slightest
of pressure on the hard outer shell

Cracking the protection
we have absurdly built up

Thinking we can fool
the shadows that lurk
just out of sight

A touch, a push, a gentle squeeze
and it all comes rushing to the surface

Releasing the tension
that does nothing but tie us up

Why three is the most stressful number of children to have – BUT mothers of four are MORE relaxed | Mail Online

Why three is the most stressful number of children to have – BUT mothers of four are MORE relaxed | Mail Online.

Third time’s a charm.  1,2,3 – GO!  The three amigos.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Celery, carrots, and onions.  Huey, Duey, and Louey.  The Three Little Pigs.  Even the tri-cornered hat.  Three is a magic number!

Unless you have three children.  Then, apparently, it drives you out of your gourd.

My husband sent me the link to the article above in an e-mail one day with the subject line, “interesting article . . .”  Well, the ellipses said everything.

The article, though, doesn’t give any specific reasons why, I thought – at least none I hadn’t already known.  My husband and I had already joked that we’d  moved from man-on-man defense to zone defense once we had three.  I already told people that the only thing that helped going from two to three was that you already knew how to keep multiple balls in the air – but that, now, there was always a ball in the air.  The woman quoted who said it was easy going from one to two?  Yeah, no.  I swear my second is still a light sleeper because I was constantly shrieking at her sister to stay away from her as a newborn (can you say undiagnosed case of some sort of postpartum something?  No wonder the $#*% the fan with the third).

As far as the benefits of having four, I already reap some of those now with three.  A Dr. Taylor in the article says about perfectionism that “‘there’s just not enough space in your head’ once you have at least four children.”  There is no available space in my brain.  Burn photos or video to a DVD?  I knew how to do that once.  That knowledge oozed out my ear during one of the twenty minute periods of sleep of some child’s infancy.  And forget head space – what of physical or mental energy?  Once upon a time I hung sheetrock at Habitat for Humanity home sites, after scoring and snapping it myself.  I fought vehemently to do things around the house my way.  Now if the home improvement fairy comes and takes care of things, I don’t really care as long as it gets done (with the possible exception of painting/decorating).  Something’s gotta give.

And that’s where I do agree with something Dr. Taylor says.  “The more children you have, the more confident you become in your parenting abilities. You have to let go.”  There is confidence in repetition, practice.  I didn’t worry about ‘breaking’ my baby after countless diaper changes and pulling little arms through tiny shirt sleeves.  I didn’t freak out as much over breast feeding and whether they were getting enough to eat.  But did I worry if I was doing enough?  Not doing the damage that would land my kids in their own form of therapy someday?  Heck, yeah.  That didn’t change with multiple kiddos.  That increased.  Still, for self-preservation – and really, theirs too – you do have to let go.

A dear friend, who had her three children three steps ahead of mine, and therefore in the as-cool-as-a-cucumber phase while I was just entering the anal-retentive, told me when I had my third, that I was much more relaxed.  When I relayed the story to my father-in-law, hinting that she’d called me anal-retentive, he agreed!  I hadn’t seen what everyone else had.  People laugh now because I’m so laissez-faire with everyday concerns.  When my impatient five year-old says she wants a snack so emphatically that it sounds like she’s gone without food for days, I say, ‘That’s nice.”  After the thud, I wait for the scream or wail.  If my child wants to go to school looking like it’s mismatch day everyday of year, more power to her.

I could be accused of being lax.  I could be accused of swinging the pendulum so far away from anal-retentive, it’s a tad too much.  But somedays I feel like I’m living inside an episode of The Three Stooges.

At least my kids are cuter

At least my kids are cuter

I can’t be all things to everyone.  I sure as hell can’t be perfect.  And I’m not going to try for a fourth to test this article’s theories!

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