To Control or Not to Control

My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”

Confession:

I like being in control.

I like being in control of myself, my life, my emotions, everything.

I don’t care quite so much about controlling other people – in fact I generally would just as soon other people control themselves and leave me out of it. But when it comes to myself, it can be a big deal. I like to feel as though “I got this.” And I like to give that “I got this” vibe to everyone I’m around as well.

I grew up as the oldest girl in a family with 9 children. In a family that large, there is a lot to be done. As the oldest daughter, for many years it was just me and mom in the kitchen, running the household and keeping things going. I got used to figuring out what needed to be done, and doing it. By the time I was 9 years old, I was getting the woodstove going and cooking breakfast for the family every morning. I learned to step up to the plate, take control, and get whatever needed to be done done.

That “just take control, figure it out, and get it done” mentality has stuck with me into adulthood.

I was an organ major in college. The school I went to had an electronic organ that was usually kept in one of the classrooms, but for performances and once or twice a month for performance class, it had to be moved across the building and into the auditorium.

Now, it wasn’t a huge electronic organ, but even “not a huge” organ is still noticeably larger than the average piano. And it didn’t have wheels.

The organ had to be moved as three separate pieces: first, the bench, which was about as long as I am tall. Then, the pedal board had to be detached and moved. The pedal board was wider than both my outstretched arms and HEAVY. Finally, to move the actual organ it had to be lifted, one side at a time, and a dolley/hand truck thing shoved under each side, then strapped to those dolley things, a lever pressed down at the bottom to engage the wheels on the dolley (or in my case, the lever jumped up and down on and maybe, hopefully, that would be enough weight to engage the wheels…) and at that point the organ could be rolled through the halls (and doorways…) to the auditorium, to be reassembled and used.

I moved that organ completely by myself more than once. Or twice. Or three times. Or… you get the idea. I moved that organ by myself a lot of times. Simply because it didn’t occur to me to ask (or I didn’t want to bother anyone by asking) for help.

A few times, I would be moving the organ right before a class, and I’d be there in the corner as students filed in and sat down waiting for class to start. They’d be talking and occasionally glancing my way as I yanked the organ apart, hoisted the bench and trotted out of the room with it, then came back for the pedal board, and finally heaved the organ itself up onto the dolleys and wheeled it out the door. There was plenty of manpower around, and on occasion when someone offered help (or a teacher walked in and ordered a few of the students to go help me) I gratefully accepted the help, but never once did I ask one of the students to come help me. It just didn’t occur to me. I didn’t want to bother them, and, besides, I was in control of the situation. I could handle this.

My “in control,” “can do” attitude is also part of the reason I actually enjoy performing and being on stage. I may spend the hours before the concert or performance pacing and wringing my hands backstage, hyperventilating and anointing myself with copious amounts of “Stress Away” essential oil, but when it comes showtime, I am in control. I take my deep breath and then fling that door open and stride out onto that stage, completely in control and in charge with a “Hello, world! HERE. I. AM!!”

It’s fun!

In some ways my being able to step up to the plate and take control has been helpful in my life. I don’t shy away from hard work and dirty jobs. I can figure out what needs to be done and do it. I tend to be pretty self sufficient, not to mention a decent performer when I’ve got an audience in front of me.

But in other ways, it’s been a really unhealthy habit.

Because I avoid asking for help. Even when I need it. I am terrified that I will be seen as needy, or as taking advantage of others willingness to help me out, by asking for their help. So I don’t ask for help. Instead I stress myself out (to the point of physical illness, sometimes), rather than simply ask for help.

I’ve been somewhat aware of this tendency of mine for a while now, but never given it much thought until a few days ago, when it hit me hard just how strong this habit is…

I’m moving. (First apartment – woohoo! Ahhhhhhh!!!!!)

And I’ve had many people offer to help me move. People have told me, multiple times, to just call or text them when I need help, they’ll come over and help me move.

I unloaded the first car load by myself. At the end of a 16 hour day and 1000 mile road trip. I got to my destination and unloaded the car at 8 PM rather than leave it until the next day and/or ask for help.

And I almost unloaded the second (and third) car loads by myself too. Because it just seemed like such an imposition to call or text someone and ask them to come help me unload. After all, I’m a completely able-bodied female! Why shouldn’t I be able to haul eight or nine or ten or twelve boxes full of books up a flight of stairs by myself? (Note to self: you should consider getting rid of some books.) Why on earth would I ever ask for help doing such a simple task, even if I was completely exhausted and tired and sore and had a headache? I got this, right!?

I did it, though. I asked for help. And those extra pairs of hands made the job SO much easier and faster.

I was proud of myself.

Yeah. You read that right. I was really proud of myself for getting over myself and my “I got this” attitude enough to ask for help moving.

*Pats self on the back.*

Control. It can come in handy sometimes. It could also get you killed if you tend to be as stubborn and pigheaded as I tend to be.

Love, N.

 

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