“You can be a control freak only when you have weak people around you.” – Ronald Perelman
This is a guest post by Noch Noch from Be Me. Be Natural.
Practicing Chinese calligraphy has been crucial to my recovery from clinical depression.
It has taught me to not sweat the small stuff, focus on the present and the moment of now, and serves as my meditation to calm down.
Last week’s class brought me a new revelation – to relinquish control and go with the flow.
I have always planned my life meticulously.
I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now, and so on.
I even had a Word document that listed everywhere I wanted to travel by when, and how I should have kids by the time I was 30 years old.
Whenever things fell out of plan, I got frustrated.
In leading a team project, organizing a party, rounding people up for dinner, and everything else, I wanted to be in control. I did not trust other people to do their job. I wanted things done my way.
I controlled every element that could be controlled, and things out of my control – well, I tried to control them anyways.
Last week at calligraphy class, I was practicing a new type of script.
There was a degree of liberation in this style, a freedom in the strokes, exaggerated but self-contained.
I wanted to express the spontaneity in the characters but also draw out the form of the character itself so it did not look lopsided.
But for some reason, the stroke would not pan out the way it should. I became frustrated and irritated. My teacher sensed my agitation, and asked me to stop, breathe and rest a while.
“Relax the wrist.” My teacher gently reminded me – for about a thousand times in those two hours.
“Relax the fingers and loosen your grip on the brush.”
I stopped writing and let go of the brush just a little, so that it felt like a feather resting on my fingertips. Then I continued the stroke.
It dawned on me what my teacher was trying to say. I held on too tight. I wanted to control the brush and tell it where to go. In doing so, I lost the agility in steering the brush’s dance.
Indeed, my teacher always said that the brush guides my hand, and not the other way around as I presumed.
I had the knowledge of the character’s mechanics, the intention to write, and all it took was to trust my heart, and let the brush express what I knew, and for my fingers to follow the flow.
Yet I could not let go. I wanted to control. How can one write if we do not control the instrument we are writing with?
The adamant control blinded me. I forced my way through to the destination – and therefore, never reached it. My own force and energy prevented me from getting where I wanted to.
I had to relinquish excessive control. I relaxed my wrist, I relaxed my fingers.
A sudden ease filled me, and my whole body lightened up. It was magic! I could twirl the brush in a pirouette, rounding off the stroke the way I wanted it to.
Control and plans are double edge swords. Without a plan and some control in our life, we lose sight and feel disoriented. Too much – as in my case – inhibits our actions.
Applying the philosophy of calligraphy, here are three steps I follow to help myself dilute the control freakishness in my life:
Leave the situation, even if only mentally
When I get agitated at something not going the way I want it to, whether I was with a group of people or on my own, I force myself to stop talking, stop acting, and physically taking a step back from the group or from the activity I was performing.
This allows me some space to breathe and analyze the situation objectively, and to prevent myself from getting too emotional.
Too much control?
When I have calmed down from my initial agitation, I could decide if I was exerting too much control on the situation.
Were there factors out of my control and depended on the environment, such as the weather?
There was nothing I could do when it stormed over the weekend and I had to cancel plans to take my puppy on a picnic.
I consoled myself that I was trying too hard to control too many things, and that relaxing the grip could work out just fine.
I took a nap, and when I woke up, the sky had cleared and instead of a picnic went with my puppy to play with other dogs.
Does it matter?
Perhaps it was as simple a group of people bantering over what mode of transport to take to get to the dinner venue.
Everybody had their opinions, and I had mine – and of course believed it to be the most efficient and the best.
After arguing for 5 minutes, I caught myself and stepped by from the group, and asked myself, “Did it matter how we got there?” Not really. It was purely a social engagement.
If it doesn’t matter, let it go.
Time to take it easy. Let things unfold. Trust in others and myself. Relinquish control.
Do you need more or less control in your life?
Author’s Bio: Brought up in Hong Kong and Australia, Noch Noch was a young, overachieving executive for an international corporation. After seven years of living the life she dreamt of, or so she thought, she suffered a serious stress-related depression that turned her life upside down. As she battles with depression, Noch Noch is on a quest to be the wake-up call for others in similar plights in her blog, Be Me. Be Natural, where she jots down her reflections on living with depression and self-awareness. She is also the creator of Bearapy (http://bearapy.me) to channel creativity.