The Whirlwind of Losing Control

I like the driver’s seat. There’s something perfect about adjusting the mirrors to your exact field of vision and pulling the lever forward (or back) until your feet are the exact right distance from the pedals. Everything in that car becomes about you, about what’s going to make you the most comfortable and capable while you get from point A to point B. Whether you’re alone or the car is stuffed full of passengers, you’re behind the wheel. You make the decisions.

You’re in control.

To state the obvious, I’m really bad at not being in control. Which is unfortunate because about 99.9% of the time, I’m not. I can’t be. It doesn’t work like that. I don’t get to decide when it’s hot or when it rains. I don’t get to decide whether or not my professors give cumulative final exams. I don’t get to decide how many calories my body needs every day in order for me to, you know, not die. And I most certainly do not get to choose the way I feel, much less the way other people feel.

Do you know how hard that is to accept? For someone who thrives on being able to downshift when she’s scared and swerve to avoid potholes? Usually when I’m faced with something like that, something too big for me to move alone, I run away as fast as I possibly can. And believe me, I can run pretty fast. I’ve gotten so good at running I almost forgot what it was like to hit one of those bumps that send your car flying and flipping through the air until you land on your head and can’t figure out which way is up anymore.

Relationships, I guess, fall into that category, as do a lot of other things. It’s a lot easier to get out of a relationship than to face the maddening insecurity of knowing that no matter how much you want to be there, you can’t force the other person to want the same. I’ve let really beautiful ones fall by the wayside because I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility that they didn’t really care, or that one day they wouldn’t care, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t handle not knowing. I couldn’t handle not having control.

Surrendering control is like diving off the 10-meter board with no real assurance that you’ll even hit water. It’s like blindfolding yourself and handing your keys to someone you’ve never seen drive before. It’s like letting go of the rock wall and hoping there’s a belayer down there to catch the rope. It’s like walking a tightrope above crowded city streets. Surrendering control is the culmination of all the things in life that make me the most afraid. It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s beautiful and ridiculous and exhilarating and terrifying.

I wrestle with it. Letting go. I take the first few steps onto the tightrope before I jump back in fear. One of my hands stubbornly retains its tough grip on the rocks. I stand on the edge of the diving board and curl my toes around the edge, rocking back and forth like I might just fall, accidentally, and not have to make a decision.

Sometimes, for a few seconds, I’m there. I’m free-falling through the air and it feels amazing because I’m not scared anymore, and all of a sudden anything in the world is possible. I can feel pain or ecstasy or the perfection of love without holding anything back. Those few seconds, however brief or insignificant they may seem, are everything to me. And then before I know it, I’m back where I started. Staring at the abyss below me. Afraid to take the leap.

I am a mess of emotions that tries desperately to stay put together. But I am learning to trust the universe. I am learning to trust the people in the passenger seat. I am learning to trust that when someone offers to jump with me, they mean it. I am learning to experience the whirlwind of losing control.

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