Changed my mind about my route to work today and turned into a subdivision to make a U-turn. Like many subdivisions in Tallahassee, this one doesn’t have curbs or sidewalks. The lawns run right out to the edge of the paved surface.
The corner lot where I turned was distinctive for its creative use of reflector poles to mark the edge of the pavement. I say “creative” because the poles were set into sandbags placed 6″ into the roadway. The last time I took this route, the poles had been placed on the lawn right at the edge of the pavement. Obviously, this placement did not keep cars from cutting the corner too sharply and driving across the grass. The remedy? Move the markers out into the roadway, so drivers are forced to make a wider turn. It will be interesting to see if this solution works to keep errant drivers from ruining the perfect carpet of lawn that this homeowner evidently prizes. However, in any battle between a car and skinny reflector poles – even those anchored by sandbags, my money is on the car!
As with many seemingly mundane events in life, this little event is rich with deeper meaning. It struck me that this lawn drama illustrates how far many of us will go to maintain some sense of control over our world. It is, for most of us, an exercise in futility. That doesn’t stop us from trying, though!
If you’re curious about your own attempts to control the world or you’d like to learn more about why you’re often frustrated, I have a few questions for you to ask yourself:
- What are some of my most stringent non-negotiables in my daily life, personal relationships, or living environment?
- What habits of others drive me absolutely crazy?
Those, my friends, are your non-negotiables!
I grew up in a strict household. My father was fond of saying that a family wasn’t a democracy; it was a dictatorship. Of course, the parents were the dictators – benevolent to be sure, but dictators nonetheless. In a dictatorship, there are few preferences and a great many absolutes. For instance, there was one and only one way to fill the ice cube trays – Daddy’s way. This was not a preference. This was the way it had to be done, or else Daddy would be very unhappy about it, and we would all know it. There were many, many such non-negotiables in my family. It was clear that I would have to comply with these absolutes as long as I was a child. Implied was the hope that my choices would dictate everyone’s behavior when I became an adult in my own house.
Alas! This was not to be. The family I have created doesn’t give a fig about how I want things done. All of my carefully cultivated “best practices” are routinely ignored in favor of whatever works at the moment. This makes life easier for my family members but often causes me to search for things like the scissors that I like to keep handy in the kitchen. Unable to grasp my need to be effective and efficient, they don’t understand why my buttons are pushed when the scissors goes missing. I often respond with righteous indignation, declaring that it is my kitchen! Such incidents do not lead to family harmony and happiness!
It’s no surprise then that I have struggled with upgrading my absolutes to preferences. The intersection of “my way” and “your way” often comes down to what highway you want to travel. The road to peace and serenity isn’t necessarily the road of surrender to the other’s way. It’s surrendering our identification with being right and giving up the need to be in control. Ultimately, this struggle has become a roadsign on my spiritual journey. When it appears, I know that I have fallen back into my merely human ways of being. In old terms, I have sinned. In new terms, I have missed the mark I set for myself.
The solution is to realize that I want to notice my tendency to fall off the high road of spiritual transformation, not other people’s behavior. Since I see this falling so often, I am constantly off balance. This is a good thing! I want to be kept off-balance in the manifest world. Complacency isn’t compatible with the path I’ve chosen. Spiritual transformation is hard work. At times, I may complain about it, but I wouldn’t trade my current path for the chaotic one I trod before.
I welcome the daily recognition of my embedded need for control. It is a sure sign that I am identified with and in bondage to my own need to be Captain of the Universe! If I want to enjoy the freedom of true transformation, I will have to surrender every requirement I have placed on the world around me and within me. It’s a struggle worth having. To be a presence of peace in a world gone mad is worth it – if only for a moment!