Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Risky Business v. Control Freak

April_Optimist wrote about taking risks and about how she has learned to stop worrying about every contingency and go for it, even if it means failing. That prompted me to think about how I make decisions.

You would think that a person could not be both a risk taker and a control freak. I'm living proof that it can be done.

If you looked into my past from the outside, you'd likely think I am a risk taker. I experimented with drugs, drank way too much alcohol and risked STDs and pregnancy with my "extra-curricular activities." I partied hard. I ran with a wild crowd, drove to fast, walked the streets of an inner city, flirted with dangerous men and lots of other such things. Then at age 17, I left home to go to college - 9 hours from all family. After college I turned down a full scholarship to an out-of-state school to attend law school in state on a partial scholarship. I risked getting married, when few in my immediate family have ever had a marriage work out. I then risked moving to a new town, having Husband quit his job, and signing a one year lease - on the hope and prayer that I would pass the bar exam and be able to obtain licensure to work at the law firm. I financed all this with school loans, taking a risk that I'd someday be able to pay all this back.

That all sounds pretty risky. Even my career field sounds risky. I argue cases every day where I risk losing. Not only do I risk losing an argument and making a fool out of myself, I risk my clients' futures.

So do I think I'm a risky person? Not at all.

I analyze everything to death. I ponder every option. I overthink everything. I waffle back and forth. I talk it out in my head. I have conversations with people who aren't there. I pretend they are there. Then I talk to them and try to think about what they would say. Sometimes I even get advice from people for real. I post on online forums. I make pro/con lists. I write blog posts and try to sort things out.

I often want someone else to tell me what to do. I often make decisions based on what I think I should do and what I think someone else wants me to do. I make decisions on what is best for everyone else, except me.

I would classify myself as a control freak. I had to control every decision. I was in charge. I could make decisions and appear to make them quickly and well -- at least from the outside. No one knew the turmoil on the inside.

Three years ago began a period where I was paralyzed with fear. I couldn't make a decision at all. My idea of making a decision was to do nothing and let whatever happened occur. Uncertainty caused panic attacks which caused self-injury. I was on so many medications that I was numb.

I began to let loose of some of my control tendencies. I began delegating more and more to others. By refusing to do everything, I forced my Husband to start doing some things. At work, I found a good legal assistant and was able to delegate more to her. At the same time I learned to let go, I was learning to make decisions in my own life. I risked letting others help me. I risked making a decision. I also took control of my life.

This past year has been one risk after another. Selling our house and buying another. Having another child. Quitting a job I've held for over 8 years. Taking another job. Gee and I wonder why my anxiety is high and my jaw hurts from clenching?!?!

From the outside I appear to be calm, cool, collected. In control. Taking risks. Few people know what it does to me on the inside. The stomach aches, sleepless nights, anxiety and panic. It is getting better though. The paralyzing fear has relaxed some. I still spend way too much time contemplating and worrying. But I can take some action now.

As an abuse survivor, I lived a life out of my control. Just surviving was risky. I grasped at any control I could find. As an adult survivor I am learning to loosen my controlling tendencies and take more risks. It's a very slow process but I'm inching forward.


dm said...

you said, " It's a very slow process but I'm inching forward."

Reminds me of something we read recently when people are trying to change major life issues. all they need to do is NTS - it stands for "Next Tiny Step"

thanks for the update

Kahless said...

Your moving your life forward which is fantastic.