Letting Go of Control
There’s a self-contradiction in simplifying one’s life: by getting rid of the control that excess stuff, expenses, and activities have over your life and sense of well-being, you gain a sense of control over your space, money, and time. It can be a pretty heady experience, when you stop one day and realize that X number of months or years ago you were living quite differently, and things always seemed to be a mess, particularly the house, the finances, and the schedules. Wow, huh? And if you are just starting out on this whole minimalism gig, just stick with it and you’ll know what I’m talking about, too.
There are, however, things we cannot control, no matter how well we line up our ducks, pay off our debts, create lives about meaning rather than stuff, and generally leave ourselves open for spontaneity and warm human interaction. S#&* happens. And sometimes when s#&* happens, it can get to us on such a deep level we can’t even explain why we’re so bothered by it.
We cannot truly control the people and events around us. We can try, but they will do what they will do almost regardless. We do what we can to create an environment in which we can thrive, but not everyone will play nice. Same with our bodies. We can live as healthily and conscientiously as possible, but illness can still occur. Same with our geography, from floods, droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, disease, famine, infestation, and climate change. Things happen, and sometimes we find ourselves in their path.
It’s instinctive to fight or run when threatened. It’s also understandable to feel confused if you find yourself reacting out of stress to threats to your newfound minimalist equilibrium. After all, part of the goal of simplifying was to reduce stress as well as clutter, debt, and confusion, to get life under control….
Control. Threats to our sense of control can provoke some nasty-ass responses from us. Would letting go of the control help? Yes, seriously. At what point do we fight or stop fighting, swim against the current or float? Would we necessarily drown if we stop swimming and learn to float, to let the riptide do what it does and eventually send us further down the shore?
Is stop fighting the same as giving up control, or is it a different kind of control?
Floating along with the current, letting it take you to a different place, can have two outcomes: it will either take you to a place you want to be, or it will take you to a place you do not want to be. Some places can become where you want to be because you can manifest what you want for yourself within those environments (i.e., bloom where you’re planted). Some places can never be that, because they lack what you truly need (and not what you only think you need).
Do you create stress for others around you while you fight, struggle against the current? Do you end up inadvertently helping them create a situation in which you don’t want to be, and they don’t, either? What would happen if you stopped fighting, went with the current, and yet not let go of the knowledge of what you want? Is there a chance you will get there, a chance that you might already be there, or on the right path, and a chance that those around you might also find that path and support you and even join you?
Control causes stress, even though getting back some control can reduce stress.
The key is knowing the difference between the goal and the control. Big problems are caused when the control itself is the goal. That’s when you don’t leave enough room for other people and other elements to behave in the way they naturally behave. It’s much more likely to stress you and trip you up. The fault, however, doesn’t lie in their chaos, but in the nature of the control you crave.
If you have truly achieved the ability to live as a minimalist, you can live as a minimalist no matter what comes down around you. This is not the case for anyone who is not a minimalist, because then stuff, money, shopping, status, things to be, people to do, and managing it all increases the likelihood of drowning in the riptide. If you don’t need to spend money, that doesn’t change if someone else does need to spend it; if you don’t need a hypersocial life, that doesn’t change if someone else needs to be a butterfly; if you are able to achieve serenity, that doesn’t change in the face of chaos–you’ll be the best-equipped to survive and help those around you, to make good decisions based on essentials.
Minimalism, in the beginning, is about controlling the amount of mental and material baggage you choose to take on. In the end, however, it is about letting go of the need to control and allowing life to flow as it will. When you have no need for control, you cannot feel threatened at its loss, and in turn you are not likely to contribute to your own disharmony and chaos.