Here’s the deal. I like to think that I am super easy going and very open minded. In fact, I tell people that all the time. Check me out ‘I go with the flow, where the wind blows, where the path takes me…’ and other suitable cliches. However, recently a sneaking suspicion has been creeping up on me. You know the ones that you notice and because you don’t like what you see, you relegate them to the very back, dusty corners of your mind? This sneaking suspicion was that I might be a leetle bit of a control freak. Notice, I said might.
No one likes to think they are controlling. It sounds super uptight and not fun. Hence, the ‘stick this in the dusty corner’ approach. If you ask my husband he would not hesitate to say that ‘of course, you are a control freak’. Well, he would hesitate because he would see that look in my eyes which suggests that it might be better to change the subject immediately before he gets turned to stone.
The things that he thinks are controlling I perceive as ‘normal’, ‘logical’ and ‘obviously, the correct way to do it’. An example of this is that, to me, there is a right and a wrong way to put laundry on a drying rack. Of course, you should start at the bottom and work your way up. RIGHT? Here’s another one: the books on the bookshelf obviously should be grouped by height, topic and ideally, by color. Makes sense. RIGHT?
Here’s the kicker for me which made me realize that I was possibly taking it a little too far.
Our Christmas tree. What could be more fun that choosing a beautiful tree, decorating it as a family, watching the children put their favorite ornaments on it? There should be Christmas carols playing merrily in the background, the parents should have a glass of champagne in hand, the tree ornaments should be red and gold, the kids should be wearing matching pjs, the lights should be warm and inviting.
That word is a doozy. Why SHOULD any of this be this way? Who made me the queen of Christmas to decide this? I realized that my vision of how this simple activity ‘should’ be was making it zero fun for everyone including myself.
So I set myself a task. This year, don’t be the Christmas ‘Should’ fairy. When it came to decorating the Christmas tree, I decided to leave the house and go get food for dinner. I wasn’t good enough yet to be in the room and give up control (that’s next year!) but I left my husband and two young kids to their own devices. When I came back the tree was decorated. I walked in the room and my daughter, who is 7, looked at me with a slightly worried expression on her beautiful face and said ‘please don’t judge it, mommy’.
UGH. Talk about a dagger to the heart, ego and spirit all in one go. But man, she was right. I could have very easily started moving ornaments around, making it symmetrical, ensuring even distribution of the twinkly lights. That’s what I normally do. Why? Because I think it looks better like that and that’s how it ‘should’ look. What a bloody killjoy. I also made assumptions that the reason all the decorations were clumped together at the bottom is because the kids aren’t tall enough yet to put them on the top. However, over dinner later, my daughter mentioned that the reason certain ornaments are close together is because the kids got them at the same time and so they belong together. There is method in their madness and I didn’t know that. If I had moved the ornaments around I would have messed with their intent and their way of making it look nice.
By assuming that our own way is the ‘right’ way of doing something, we are not taking into account the very good reasons that other people have for doing something. We are also closing ourselves off from new possibilities and quite simply stated, are displaying a certain level of arrogance.
Most of all, we run the risk of ruining things for other people and closing off creativity.
Decorating a Christmas tree might see like a small thing but it has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned this year.
To quote a certain icy themed movie, 2019 will be year of learning to ‘Let it Go’.
Here’s my top coaching tip for working on letting go (not attempting to sing the high notes is always a good one, btw):
if you find yourself really stubbornly wedded to a view or an opinion, like you’d swear blind you’re right or you’d bet silly money, that can sometimes be exactly the right time to ask yourself “why?'“. Sometimes the things that we are the most tied to are the ones that are no longer serving us in the best way. Simply checking in with yourself and asking ‘ what would happen if I did it differently?’ or ‘what would it be like if I let that other person have a go?’ can have surprising and enlightening results. Try it out and see what you think.
By the way, the fam did a pretty good job. Right?