I’m the oldest child in my family. I’m the smart one, the rational one, the pragmatic one. I’m the one who has the answers, the responsible one, the dependable one. I’m the one who listens, the one who sympathizes, the one who tries to hold everything together. I’m the one who is in control. I’ve been all of those things my entire life, and I pride myself on them. But today? Today, I’m tired.
About a week ago, I had probably the worst day that I can remember. On that day, I wasn’t any of the things I’m usually proud of. I wasn’t rational. I wasn’t in control. I couldn’t hold it together. On that day, the tears came and wouldn’t stop. On that day, helpless and hysterical were the only words I could think of to describe me. I didn’t feel like myself.
For as long as I can recall, I have always been the person who is able to be in control. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a controlling, manipulative person (though I suppose such a person wouldn’t admit it). Honestly, being manipulative takes a lot of energy and time that I feel would be better spent doing just about anything else. But I like to be in control. I like to know exactly what’s going on. I like things to be predictable. I like to know that I’m in charge of where things are headed. I like to be the one who makes sure things go the right way. I’m that annoying girl in group projects who insists on doing absolutely everything, from research to the write up, because I need to have it done a certain way. I need it to look like I want it to. I want to control the outcome.
But last week, I wasn’t in control. I was in tears.
I’m not the sort of girl who cries at the little things. It takes a lot for me to tear up, even more for the tears to run down my face. I don’t cry at Hallmark commercials, and movies about baby animals just don’t do it for me. Truthfully, I’m not overly sensitive, prone to dramatics, or highly emotional. I’m serious, reserved, rational, and I’m proud of it. So when I couldn’t stop crying? When I became a bit hysterical? When the tears wouldn’t dry and the smiles couldn’t come, I was confused. I was lost. I was a bit afraid.
Crying means I’ve lost control. It means that all of the reins that I hold in a tight grip, the reins I don’t let anyone else touch, the reins that keep everything together came loose. All of the compartments where I’ve stashed my thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears, and sadness burst open, and I can’t shove everything back where it goes. Sometimes, I put on a mask to cover up my loss of control. I try to pretend that nothing is wrong, that everything is exactly how it should be. But eventually, I can’t fake it. The emotions become too much to handle, the thoughts won’t stop coming, and I lose it.
We think we have to always have everything under control. Otherwise, we believe that we look like a mess. If we aren’t in control of our finances, our children, our marriage/relationship, our careers then we must be doing something wrong. We must be failing. We look around at everyone else, we see the masks they are wearing, and we think they have it together. We feel ashamed. We feel inferior. We feel, simply, less.
I came across a line from Kim Gruenenfelder’s A Total Waste of Makeup that has been bouncing around in my mind for the last few days:
Don’t be jealous of anyone. I guarantee you, if everyone walked into a room, and dumped their problems onto the floor, when they saw what everyone else’s problems were, they’d be scrambling to get their own problems back before someone else got to them first.
We like to believe that there are other people who are perfect. It feeds our fantasy that we too can somehow achieve this perfection. We look at the businessmen and woman walking down the sidewalks in their classy suits or the celebrities on television or the happily married couples or the college graduates who have their dream job, and we think to ourselves, “If they can do it, we can do it.” But do any of us stop to think that maybe those same people are looking at us, thinking “Wow, they are so together!” and wish they had our life? We are all searching for some perfect life, some better future, and we never really stop to wonder if what we have is perfect for us. Maybe what we have is everything we need, if we would only stop and simply make the most of what we’ve been given, rather than trying to find something better, something we can control.
The funny part? God never told us we have to have it together. He never said that we have to take care of everything, be perfect, be in control. He never commanded that of us, because He knows His children and He knew that we wouldn’t be able to. He knows us so well, better than we know ourselves, and He knew we would have emotional and mental breakdowns and just lose it. Even back in the Garden of Eden, when He planted the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He knew the choice we would make. He knew we wouldn’t be perfect.
Mankind’s first sin was one of control. Eve, in hearing the sales pitch from Satan, thought that she was lacking something, this knowledge of good and evil. Something was being withheld from her. There were things out there that she didn’t know, and she didn’t like not being able to control her own knowledge. So she ate, and we’ve all been repeating the same sin ever since. We struggle to be in control of our lives, thinking that will make everything better. But while we try to maintain that control, we don’t put our trust in the one God that truly controls the universe and everything in it.
Instead of trusting in our Father, we wear our masks. We hide behind them and pretend that everything is okay. We imagine that if we had a different life, someone else’s life, our problems would disappear. But the world isn’t that easy, and God doesn’t work that way. The only way we can truly be at peace (rather than in control) is to let go. We need to drop the masks, let go of the reins, and empty our hidden compartments. We need to admit that we will never be able to control our future. But we can give it to God. We can hand Him the reins and join Him for the ride. We can let Him be in control while we find the peace that comes with recognizing our limitations. We can enjoy our life in present and encourage those around us to do the same. Because…
We are all wonderful, beautiful wrecks. That’s what connects us—that we’re all broken, all beautifully imperfect.