Saturday, October 16, 2010

Complete Control

As with many of us, my biggest struggle in life has always been against myself. When I was a child, I felt that I was always outside the norm. I liked video games, was interested in karate (though I was never allowed to take it, as my parents feared injuries), and liked playing outside. I never had any imaginary friends or kept pet snakes or anything you'd commonly label as "weird kid" stuff. On the flipside, I was never a jock, never popular, always the smartest kid in class (read: big nerd), etc. So I was never verboten, but I was never included. Oddly, or maybe not, that carried over through my teenage years, though I developed a sense of humor I could share with (or exert upon) everyone around me to help defuse situations and fit in more. Even more oddly, that's carried over into my adult life. I still play video games, I finally managed to actually study (and even now teach) karate.

So what's the point of this 30,000 foot view? I've spent some time lately trying to determine why I do what I do. Every behavior we repeat, good or bad, we do because we get some sort of reward. Exercise, breaking our diets, drinking, dating, fucking, Starbucks, procrastinating. We get something out of all those things or else we wouldn't keep repeating them. That being said, I've wondered lately why I still have so many of the same habits, interests, desires, etc. I had as a kid. Am I somehow refusing to grow up? Is it bad/wrong that I'm still such a dork? Setting aside those questions, what is it that I get out of all these dorky little behaviors? The short answer, or at least part of the larger answer, I think, is control.

With games, you're popped into an imaginary world where you get to control a character who is, often, capable of achieving great things on his/her own. Your protagonist doesn't have a mortgage, isn't stuck doubting his self-worth, doesn't have to worry about having money to feed/clothe/warm his kids, and more often than not, doesn't find herself in any situation that can't be resolved with a head shot or running someone through with a sword large enough to have its own zip code.

Karate isn't all that different, at least in this aspect, especially as a sensei and head of school. I control what I teach, as well as having the ability to control what other instructors teach to ensure students get the full curriculum covered. I can determine if/when I want to offer special classes, weekend classes, etc. I know I'm good at it, so I don't worry about my self-esteem while I'm at class, I get to forget, even if only for 3 hours a week, about all the mistakes I make week in and week out in my relationships (talking too much, not listening enough, impatience, the list goes on and definitely does not warrant sainthood).

However, I also wonder if these devices, these behaviors that allow me more control than many things in my life (and let's face it, the list of things we can control is vastly shorter than what we cannot) are being used by me as more of an ostrich escape than anything else. Why do I feel guilty playing games still? Why do I simply not feel like going to class some nights (but always feel better when I get there)? Why do I feel REALLY guilty when I vanish out to the garage to play drums (or tinker, very badly, on the guitar)? Is it because I know these things are not "productive" (vs. studying to be better at my job, thinking up ways to improve Brandi's & the kids' lives more, etc.) and therefore, they are selfish time-wasters?

Hobbies are healthy, provided your hobby doesn't involve making human lampshades, but at what point does a hobby cross the line into selfishness? Of the things we find in our control, at what point do we cross the line between controlling our hobbies/behaviors and letting them control us?

One of my hobbies is handiwork and home projects of whatever form. Today, I thought I could control the project of building a new, elevated bed for our daughter until that little project bit me in the ass with a hitch I did not foresee. My immediate thought when I encountered the issue, which had to with the supporting side rails interfering with the supporting posts, was that I *should* have seen that issue when laying out the plans, but I got so busy getting busy that I missed a little big detail. My mistake cost me a nice night with Brandi and now I'm up at 1am beating myself up over my failure to control something I feel was within my grasp, if I weren't so busy and so blinded by the illusion of control over the process. Were it not for my selfish desire to charge ahead at top speed with the project, the evening would have gone much differently. Ultimately, and with the intervention of Brandi and a friend/neighbor, everything worked out all right, but the ends certainly don't justify the means. So I, who am admittedly a control freak on these home improvent projects (making me a huge pain in the ass, sorry), need to learn to slow down, open my ears and let loose the reigns a bit.

So do I seek this control because I never feel like I fit in doing most "normal" things, thus I try to clamp down on those I think I can do reasonably well? If so, is that an attitude that requires some focused effort on maturation? Tonight, I fired up the Xbox and was hit with this "What the fuck are you doing and why?" thought. I wanted to work through it, hence this looooong-winded blog. So if you're still with me, feel free to toss in your two cents on what you try to control, what you think you need to control more, how it affects your life and relationships, and what you've had to give up trying to control?

1 comment:

  1. I've been trying for years to regain control of my life-first from my parents, then one husband and then another. You are the one person with whom I've never had that struggle. We've talked a lot about this, how I now struggle more sometimes with the freedom you give me than I did with the lack of freedom I experienced previously.
    I think you are always, only, trying to do the very best thing and sometimes you loose sight of what that really means. When we discussed the yucky of Saturday's project "fallout" we found that you were hearing what you "thought" I was saying instead of what I was "actually" saying. Sometimes, it's just as simple as clarifying and then ta-da...we have a beautifully completed project! And you did a fantastic job!
    I'm lucky to have you and DO think you warrant sainthood. Very few men would ever have the balls to take on the role you walked right on in to knowingly.