Sunday, August 25, 2013

Letting Go Henri Nouwen Style

“It is our great illusion that life is a property to be owned or an object to be grasped, that people can be managed or manipulated.”  Henri Nouwen

I’m a control freak.  I recognize this about myself.  Everything in its place; everything planned; everything on time, or I’m irritated.  I was well into adulthood before I realized other people weren’t usually like me.  I’m much more relaxed now than I used to be, but I still function better in an organized space, following a routine.  The problem with being a control freak is that you can’t control the people around you, the people you love.

In part two of Henri Nouwen’s Turn My Mourning Into Dancing, he addresses the issue of learning to let go and of realizing how much happier your life will be if you learn to relinquish control.  The metaphorical theme he employs in this part is of trapeze artists, noting “Before they can be caught they must let go.”  Personally, I cannot imagine letting go of a swing in mid-air and trusting someone else to time the catch correctly enough to save me from a fall.  Maybe that’s a good metaphor for why I am single, because Nouwen goes on to quote CS Lewis’s observation, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.”  And I suck at being vulnerable.  It’s not in my nature.  Vulnerability implies giving over control, and well, we’ve already determined I’m a control freak.  

Nouwen asserts that life, love, the journey, all of it, is not about our ability to choreograph every step, but about our willingness to let it drag us along, sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes laughing and reveling, to ends and destinations we can’t foresee.  When we try to assert our will over our lives, we are also trying to assert our will over those around us, with no regard for what they might want or need.  The truth is that we are all self-centered; we all want what we want.  The question is can we let go enough to love what we get and let go of what we think we want?  It’s so hard not to be afraid of the unknown.  It’s so hard not to try to control and organize everything, but we’ll never find out what waits for us if we don’t learn to let go of the known and accept the unknown.  Live outside your comfort zone; try something new. Be afraid; it's ok. You'll be amazed what your life can become.


Bryan G. Robinson said...

With some things happening in our family lately, we're definitely learning that we can't choreograph every step...and the unknown can be scary, but also maybe freeing in the end. Thanks for sharing this post. It came at just the right time.

A fellow Sunday Saloner.

Barbara Bartels said...

I don't consider myself a control freak about many things, but I did encounter soul-searching difficulties about intervening with a family member. i learned to both let go and do what I called "acting into the void." What that meant was I did what I had to do to be true to myself, but detached the act from expecting the results I wanted. XXXX would change when he was ready to change and not before and maybe not at all and that was okay too. I needed to do whatever to be me.
Best to you.

Amy said...

Thanks, Bryan. I wasn't sure about this book at first because I'm not a religious person, but so many things I've read in it have been exactly what I needed right now too.

Amy said...

Thank you too, Barbara. "Acting into the void" is a perfect example of what I need to learn to do. Act the way I need to for me and then let the end result become what it will. Fantastic practical advice.

thecuecard said...

I dont know if you are a Virgo but a lot of those control-routine-organize-time traits seem to be with me as well. I, too, have to pause and let go more often but it's tough. I guess to acknowledge it's going on helps. best to you, susan

Amy said...

I think there has to be a balance between being organized and routine and being impulsive and open to life. That's what I strive for. And I'm a Pisces :)