Three Little Words

I. don’t. know.

I hate saying those three little words. Saying it to me means I have failed. Because I should know! Because I need to be perfect and have a plan at all times! Because! Because! Because!

Yeah, even I am snorting and rolling my eyes at that- I mean, COME ON, there is no way a person can be that together. And frankly, if they are? I don’t want to meet them. They’d probably just annoy the hell out of me. One of the big life lessons I am trying to embrace is the not knowing and then, like the cherry on top of the unknown sundae, letting go of expectations.

I am aware of where this incessant need to have control comes from and by now, if you’ve been reading my blog for even a short length of time, so do you. Growing up in an alcoholic house there are certain behaviors that kids often adopt as coping mechanisms. For me, one of the big ones was attempting to control situations that, let’s be frank, were uncontrollable. I spent a great deal of time and energy trying to map out plans for what could go wrong because I had learned the hard way that things would go wrong. Repeatedly. Very wrong. So someone better have a plan a, b, c, and d and I appointed that someone to be me because I have a masochistic tendency to take on impossiblities and get a rush out of being in charge and rescuing people. By now that’s old news to you. It is to me.

But think for a moment about how that feels. Maybe you had a similar situation growing up that you felt powerless in- a situation that was scary and unpredictable and that turned your world upside down. It makes perfect sense for a person to react the way I did. In my child’s mind everything was fine and then everything was very, very not fine. It’s no wonder that I try to control chaos, predict problems and overcompensate for perceived weaknesses in others. NOT THAT ANYONE ASKED ME TO. I was never asked to do any of this. If I don’t watch out, I’ll be stumbling down Martyr Road any minute now.

Uh, no thanks.

So what’s the point of all this sharing? I’m just trying to figure out how to be okay with the unknown which is basically everything in life. I’m trying to get on board with letting go. I am attempting to drop my expectations and just carry on. But the thing is I HAVE NO IDEA HOW TO DO THAT. None. And that scares the crap out of me because, as we have already covered, I don’t like not knowing.

But I am being brave and trying. What else is there to do? Giving up is not an option.

“Arriving at someplace more desirable at some future time is an illusion. This is it.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

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27 thoughts on “Three Little Words

  1. And if you dropped yer expectations, managed to figure out the whole “letting go” thing…just carry on…how much fun it that? Shit happens, things can (and will) go wrong and for every thing you can control there are at least a few dozen that you can’t. Would that everyone in the world had sense enough to come up with even a Plan B. Besides, if you didn’t have the NotKnowing then there’d be nothing to figure out and then you’d never experience the intense pleasure of FindingOut, let alone the ecstasy of that singular moment when ThePlanComesTogether. And a more depressing set o’ thoughts would be hard to imagine (aside from the one where electricity disappears and ice cream becomes a wistful memr’y).

  2. Fear always comes out of not knowing. Try and stay focused on what you do know, on the now and present, on what you do have control over. Otherwise it’ll just eat at you. And I know you don’t want that.

  3. I know it’s cold comfort, but you are doing such good recovery work. I wish I’d had your insight when I was your age. I wasted many years not “getting it” and you understand so much. Good for you. I applaud your successes.

  4. First of all, I love that you’re not a quitter. Great trait. Secondly, why not look at the unknown as an opportunity. In each aspect of your life where there is an unknown, there is also an opportunity taking shape. And when it becomes more clear, more known, you’ll be able to do something great with it!

  5. You know, I say those 3 words a lot when I don’t want to discuss something with someone. My daughter does the same thing, too (must be genetic). There’s things I do know, but depending on the time and place and who’s asking, I use those 3 words as a cop out to try and dispell the conversation to a different subject or topic.

    And you are not alone. We are all trying to figure out the unknown, each and every day. Too much focus on it drives on crazy. I like to just let things happen, staying as responsible as I can throughout it all. It tends to ease the worry of the unknown.

  6. “Control” over life is only an illusion that makes you feel safe. You can make all the plans you want and then all those plans can be changed in the blink of an eye — for good, or for worse. Also, life is hard. It just is, for everyone, in one way or another. You just have to get through the ups and downs.

  7. It took a lot of therapy for me to realize the same thing. Because of how I grew up, I have this deep need to be perfect and ‘careful’. And this need is exhausting! I read your post and could see that you are also exhausted.

    I find it important to ask myself “what is this behavior adding to my life and what is it taking away from me”? This question makes me sad because I know it has taken so much from me! So many days that I decided to control instead of be happy. So many times I was scared instead of free.

    You are on the path. Like you said, giving up isn’t an option. You’re doing a great job!

  8. I hate not knowing, but I figure as long as I know where I can find the answer (or to realize that there is no answer) then I’ll be ok.

  9. Delurking here to say, if you haven’t read The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari – do! I, too, tend to want to control all of life’s situations and it helped me to know start LETTING GO and GO WITH THE FLOW!

  10. Despite the fact that I grew up in the freaking Brady Bunch, I also have major control issues. My therapist encouraged me to “sit through” the feelings when they came up. The anxiousness. And it was interesting (and infuriating) but when I did it, I realized they DO go away. It just takes time. But the time decreases the more you do it.

    Another tactic I’ve used a lot is deep breathing and having faith in the universe. Easier said than done, right? But if you can identify times where you weren’t in control and everything worked out, it’s easier to have that faith. I know there probably weren’t a lot of those times in your childhood, but maybe in adulthood? I think the more you can focus your energy on knowing you’re okay and taken care of, the more okay and taken care of you’ll feel.

  11. Hey Sizz,

    I have much the same problem, but it’s not because I want to control situations as such, more that I don’t want to let people down. When I was a kid, I spent most of my time observing people and not saying anything. When I got older and started to talk, I became the go-to girl for all manner of information. It was all stored away in my little mind. Eventually, it’s transpired that complete strangers ask me for information, directions, etc. I must just have that kind of bearing now–either that, or there is an invisible tattoo that says, “Ask Me Anything!” on my forehead. I make sure I know where stuff is–partly to avoid embarrassment in NOT knowing, but also so that whoever asks doesn’t have to run around like a chicken with their head cut off to find out. One-stop shopping, I guess. I like that I know stuff, it makes me feel useful and important. But I’m not so controlling that I have to know everything, and when I don’t, I am the first to say it (of course, it does make me go back and look it all up later).

  12. “Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity…”
    – Gilda Radner

  13. I have been particularly working on that “compulsive addiction to perfectionism” myself. It’s not the easiest thing to live with–in yourself or in others.

    Fortunately, I have reached perfection in combating my compulsive addiction to perfectionism.

  14. I especially like the last line.

    Not knowing is scary but then knowing everything would be….boring.

    Not knowing is what teaches you in life. Not knowing lets you learn and grow as a person.

    Now ask me if I practice what I preach. 🙂

  15. We grew up similarly and I have the same control issues, but I just got to the point where it was so overwhelming to think about everything that I just started to let go. A little. I also felt like I was doing all the work, having to make all the plans and that also seemed to get tiring, so I take “breaks” and just wait to see if someone else might do it.

  16. When trying to plan my book tour, I found myself telling my friends, “I feel like there’s this Platonian ideal of a book tour out there–with cost-efficient back-to-back stops in a bunch of cities, instead of just a few scattershot trips.”

    The friends smartly told me to shut up. I HAVE met the person who is as together as you describe (a couple of ’em), and yeah: She’s got even more issues than the rest of us.

  17. Oh my, well you know I know where you’re coming from. I think it’s something we get used to little by little. Some days it’s easy, some days it’s not. Instead of deciding that we just don’t care what happens (because, let’s face it, we are the type that very much DO care), I think the key might be to do our best to live in the moment anyway. Make plans as if we have all the business in the world doing so, you know?

  18. Saying, “I was wrong” is harder for me, but I’m working on cutting myself some slack and being gracious about it which feels like an adjunct to what you describe.

    Rolling with it is not always easy.

  19. Not knowing and not being able to control… not my favorites either. But I am slowly learning to let go and let things happen, because being surprise, can also be a good thing. Here’s to change Sizz, yours and mine! Should we open a bottle now? Cheers!

  20. I struggle with the same thing. It is causing a lot of issues with me and my husband because he is slow and relaxed and I have a mental plan (that I may have not shared) that I want to stick to. For me, it is about communicating what I want, but sometimes, I don’t even know what that is! Blah!

    Good luck 🙂

  21. Sizzle, I relate. I grew up in such a screwed up mess, that I did the same exact thing and have trying to not do it for the rest of my life :-). Letting go is hard, but it must be done, no one can control anything, so may as well float down the river on an innertube, right?

  22. I’m sure you’ve heard the line from the movie that “control is overrated” yet I understand the comfort that comes from knowing what happens next and the not knowing producing anxiety. Growth is hard, growth can be painful. Start small and then work up to the harder stuff as you gain confidence with the new “tool” (skill) in the mental toolbox.

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