Control Monkey, Love

Holding onto dear life...
Originally uploaded by MsYuri.
Control is everything I grasp for and most of the time it never does any good. If anything, it usually leaves a pretty significant wake of disaster or destruction or hurt. It was Annie Dillard who said in Holy The Firm , “We are most deeply asleep at the switch when we fancy we control any switches at all.” Something I forget when I most need to hear it.

The place where Control taunts and teases me to grab it the most is usually in relationships. I’m sure it is a habit I learned early on when family no longer seemed the safe place it was once perceived to be. After all, it is in families that we first learn what is relationship. Most of my control came out of the dad dynamics. I’ve seen it show up in others with their mom, and sometimes both parents at once. Fast-forward to adulthood and friendships and dating and marriage…and there is that Control Monkey making a racket here and there – sometimes screaming, sometimes, in a quiet whine.

One of the last relationships I was in ended via my need to control, and I was rather abrupt, cold – but that tends to be how Control plays the cards. Though, things had been going off the rails and the end was obvious, it was my Control that wielded the axe, severing, rather selfishly, all ties never giving her a real space for closure, to be heard.

Me, in my slowness, well, it took being on the receiving end of similar Control behavior, from someone else, to see how hurtful, nearly vengeful and outright petty selfish I was. Sure, I can toss out any kind of justification – “I was trying to protect my heart, I was weary, I needed to set up a strong boundary” - and though valid… they each lack grace, they lack true freedom, they lack life, nothing like Love. They are constrictive; cutting off flow, cutting…but so goes the way of Control. So much for my friend’s quote ”Love deeply, hold loosely.” I’d come to Love shallow, if at all, and held deathly.

Nearly a year later, I tracked down the one to whom I did this and let her know that I know, now. Because, when you know how it hurts, it takes little grace to understand you need forgiveness.

In the past week I’ve watched another love story that begs for Control and yet, so clearly has no way for it to get in the door. Two dear friends that have been married nearly 47 years have entered a part of the journey none of us ever wish to see, but will come if love last this long. He watched as his wife went from a severe headache to eventual unconsciousness on the way to the hospital. They had just spent “the perfect day” together, he said. She was Life-Flighted into ICU where she is now in a coma after a stroke.

Control is jumping for the chance to be heard, because when someone you love that much and is no longer able to communicate, Control wants answers, wants movement, wants progress and solutions. Love, though, is deeper here than any waters you or I have ever swam. And it is in that depth I watch this beautiful man hold loosely every day, as he spends time with his beloved.

I am sure there are moments where he thinks he might go stark raving mad, where the only control he barely holds is over the tears that want to run like wildfire down his face. And he will tell stories of anniversaries, of her little quirks, how she always does this or that, laughing memories and the way she loves their daughters. Does this sound like a man overcome with the need to Control? They are the ways of a man overcome with love.

There are very few things I, you, we can control in life. Life is far too wild a ride to try and control it. And so it is with Love. Maybe that is why they are so synonymous. It is where Control is wielded that death is not far behind.

Nouwen once wrote, “The temptation of power is greatest when intimacy is a threat.” Power, Control; potato, patahto. I’ve had my share of crushing intimacy with control, and I’ve seen my friend run towards a new kind of intimacy with his wife yielding all control just be near her. Which one would you want in the end?
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