Recently, I was put in a situation that was completely out of my control. Being a control freak, Type-A, whatever you want to call it, any situation where I feel out of control sends me into a panic. I liken it to the feeling of the drop on a roller coaster where your stomach feels like it’s in your throat and you are free falling into oblivion, hoping that the quantum mechanics and the calculations of the engineer who created the death trap were accurate, and all the levers and pulley and whatever makes you not crash into the bottom at the end properly engages.
The stress of my daily life began manifesting itself in my dreams and like the driving blind dreams I was having around my fortieth birthday, this one also had me in a car, but I wasn’t driving and I wasn’t blind. I was the passenger in this car dream and it was going too fast on a narrow bridge. I remember feeling frightened and thinking that if we didn’t slow down, we were going to fly off the edge.
The driver, whom I could not identify, seemed to turn the wheel slightly and deliberately drove us over the edge. I felt my stomach drop as car flew away from the safety of the solid ground beneath it and into oblivion. As we fell, the cliche of time slowing way down so that each moment was a pronounced feeling of dread and anticipation, came over me. I’m pretty sure I screamed the whole way down. In my dream, I could feel the free falling feeling that I avoid like the plague every time someone asks me if I want to ride the Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Disneyland. I flew out of the car (where was my seatbelt?) and felt myself hit the water with a splash. I watched the car sink slowly into the murky depths in front of me. I woke with a start, shaky and sweaty.
Life is like that. We try to control what we can and then every once in a while, it pushes you over into that unknown and uncontrollable space where you have nothing to do but fall.
This has happened in both small and large ways over the years. (My divorce was clearly a large and out of control ride).
I want to believe that these pushes over the cliff are good things. And most of the time, it seems that they are, but when you are in the middle of a freefall, it’s really hard to look past the fact that you are falling and you just hope that when it stops, you’re not a splatter of nothing on the ground.
This situation is actually the first time that I was able to process through the obvious emotion and pain of a difficult situation, take a teeny tiny step back, and try to focus on the lessons I need to learn from this.
Just a few for my own benefit, so when I am in the next out of control, freak out moment, I can remember that I am learning:
- to be more empathetic
- to be more vulnerable
- to embrace discomfort
- to let go (or let it go)
At work, we have a saying that we need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I hate that saying, but it’s true. The only time you grow is when you’re uncomfortable. When things are grand and you’re enjoying the scenery while your hair blows in the wind behind you, you can put the car in cruise control and just coast. But when you’re navigating the bumpy paths of a road that is unknown (or sitting as a passenger while a maniac drives you off a bridge), you’re focused and you learn to adapt to whatever comes your way, be it a pothole or a large body of water you’re plummeting towards.
I’m learning to find joy when the road is bumpy and also to appreciate the smooth road where I can sit back and enjoy the ride. But you still can’t get me on Guardians of the Galaxy.