“Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It is the surprising outcome of letting go.” ~James Arthur Ray
I’m not a controlling person. I don’t mind if things don’t always go my way. I understand that this is life, and there will be many times when things are out of my control and there will be nothing I can do about it. I get that. But I’d like to think that there ARE two instances where I have complete and utter control. One of those, which I have finally, and obviously, learned to master is my food intake. The other, right up there with the level of importance to me, is the packing of my grocery bags.
If you think I’m not at all being serious about how completely OCD, anal retentive, and downright, Rain Man’esque I am about how my grocery bags are packed, I offer you to take a trip to the grocery store with me. If only you could have been a fly on the conveyor belt watching me this evening at Wal-Mart. You would have gotten to see the Stage 4 meltdown I had. Now, of course, it was just a meltdown to myself, muttering under my breath, incoherently to my husband and out of earshot of the cashier. I couldn’t look like some poor pitiful babbling girl in a motorized wheelchair acting a fool in Wal-Mart. I didn’t want to look like I had lost control. But indeed, I had and that was the problem.
My first job was working in a grocery store. My last job was working in a grocery store. I’ve honed my skills to perfection. I’ve been tested, via computerized-based tests, mystery shoppers and in person with managers from the corporate office. I’ve been timed, examined and coached. I’ve moderated bagging contests, coached and trained others, awarded subordinates for excellence and disciplined them for poor bagging technique. I’ve gone from writing speeches about grocery bag packing for classes—high school and college–to being a paid author of an article on this technique. In between there, that’s 17 years of learning how to pack the perfect grocery bag. So yes, I have paid my dues and earned my right to control this one tiny portion of my life.
Which is why the horror set in when I realized the self-checkout at Wal-Mart was closed this evening. I was not going to be able to pack my own bags. OMG. My heart started to race. Oh no. Ohhhh nooo. I didn’t just have non-perishable canned goods or toiletries today. I had eggs, yogurts, bread, Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwiches—DELICATES!! And I had lots of frozen—they needed to be packed together. And the meats—they had to be separate. And the soaps—what if the cashier packed the soaps with fruits? Oh no, oh no, oh no. I started talking to myself. Mentally arranging, mentally bagging the items and hoping the cashier could read my well-packed mind. But he wasn’t reading it—he looked angry. Angry like, “I-don’t-want-to-be-here-because-it’s-7:30pm-and-I’m-ready-to-go-home-and-I’m-so-annoyed-because-this-couple-brought-in-their-damn-resuable-bags-and-the-crippled-woman-in-the-wheelchair-is-lipsyncing-and-I-think-she’s-crazy-and-I’m-not-in-the-mood-for-this.” [If you were ever a cashier, you’ve had this thought at some time or another.] And he had it. He had it as he reached for my ice cream sandwiches—was he really going to put them in the bag FIRST? They don’t go on the bottom!!! AAACCCKK!!!
I sat there. Helpless. There was nothing I could do. The cashier was in control. I was not. Mark grabbed two of the bags and placed them in my wheelchair basket. I was afraid to look. I just knew it was all going to be crushed. I looked in the first bag—the one with the ice cream sandwiches. The cashier hadn’t placed them on the bottom after all. He put them in the side corner, upright. I scanned the second bag; the yogurts were fine. He stacked them on top of each other carefully and their foil tops hadn’t been punctured. I had been going crazy with worry for nothing. While he looked like he was bagging haphazardly, that wasn’t the case. Everything was fine. I had had no control of this situation, and everything was still fine. All that worrying, stressing and raising my blood pressure was for nothing. I lost control and it all still worked out. I think I need to let go more often. If this wasn’t a metaphor for life, then I don’t know what is. 😉
Was a situation that you thought you could control, ever out of your control? How did it turn out?