Unlike Janet Jackson, when I was 17 I rarely did what people told me. Not that I was a rebel or anything; I was rather a goody two shoes actually (what does that even mean?). But at 17 I did imagine I had control. Also at 17 I listened to Janet Jackson (this was the 1980's) and she made a girl feel powerful. Now, I am more or less a rebel who recognizes an utter lack of control. I rebel against b.s., social injustice, night shifts and mean people. I control nothing.
My children teach me this more every day. When they were little, I was absolutely the master of the Universe we call Parenting. Now, I just like to watch them move through life with awe and wonder, anxiety and bewilderment, and a total despair regarding the non-cleanliness of rooms and the drinking of soda pop. Hey kids, if any of you are reading this, I have to tell you my greatest wish for you is contentment, health and love. Oh, and if you can make the world a better place than how you found it, that would be nice. I love you just as you are. Now go clean your room.
My running teaches me about control every day. I can control my pace, except when I cannot. I cannot control my urge to be fast despite the fact that I am kind of getting too old for p.r.'s. I ache, I get fatigued, I must use the dreaded foam roller religiously. But I did have a kick ass half marathon race last weekend. 91 minutes. Pure luck of a good day. I will take it however and whenever it comes. Maybe the surprise of occasional good fortune is more pleasing than the rigidity and military exactness of "control".
My work schools me about control every day. People wow me with their ability to heal against the odds. And the unfair horrible accidents and diseases just laugh at my indignant response. I learn from my work how my skills and the wonders of modern medicine are not about controlling health and recovery, but rather about creating the right milieu for the body itself to heal. When we succeed, we pat ourselves on the back. Really, we should just be grateful to have been one small part of witnessing human strength and biology.
My music teaches me about control too. When I am trying too hard to be in control, my shoulders bunch up and my teeth clench. I may play all the notes but there is something missing. If you have ever compared the great pianists of old (Horowitz, Rubenstein) to the greats of today, you may notice the older generation plays just slightly on the edge of control. They each have a very identifiable sound that no one else can exactly mimic. And (gasp) they might even sometimes miss a note. But their performances leave you breathless and fulfilled. Not that I do not admire and love many of the pianists of my generation and younger. And a total lack of control would be unseemly. But letting go in the moment and allowing the music to lead is often a recipe for sublime beauty.
My race last weekend worked because I let go. I relaxed. I took the advice of one of my very wise children, who was listening to me complain with worry about all that might happen. "Mom", she said, "Just go and run."