Reflections & Ruminations

  • Jacqueline Stuart

The Controlling Flow Conundrum



Taken from the NYTimes article by Carl Richards.


But there is something that this emergency highlighted for me, and that is my ability to be too controlling, including with the revision process of my story.

I won’t get into the kind of week I’ve had, but let’s just say it has been beyond anxiety provoking. What was supposed to be a 4-day weekend of editing my story, ended up being a basement flooding nightmare. This disaster, although partially “fixed” is actually nowhere near resolved, and with a 111 year-old, 20ft granite well in my basement, the adventure, I fear, is only beginning.


But there is something that this emergency highlighted for me, and that is my ability to be too controlling, including with the revision process of my story. This is what I was doing on Saturday just before the well started to gurgle and overflow. The word "revision" is lost on me as I have revised my story so many times now, I can’t help but wonder if what I’m doing is merely an exercise of madness–-work it until I go insane–labor over the words and sentence structure, pretending that I’m in control.



Potamophobia: Fear of Running Water


I’m the kind of person who likes to be in control of things, even my day job reinforces this type of constant command over things.

Running water, as in the kind that is out of control (i.e., floods and broken water pipes), not as in rivers or waterfall which can also cause potamophobia, is an irrational fear that I possess, so the fact that my well became the culprit of flooding the basement over the weekend, was for me a panic attack from straight from hell.


I’m the kind of person who likes to be in control of things, even my day job reinforces this type of constant command over things. If I’m seemingly in control of the world around me, then I’m seemingly more relaxed in my surroundings.



The Unpredictability of Reality


A jarring break from the revision process is just what I needed to help me to reevaluate my desire to control the uncontrollable.

But sometimes, life (or Hans, who loves to teach me valuable lessons) has a funny way of reminding me that in actuality, I’m never in control. The things that I believe I can control are only illusions. Reality, as I know it, is perpetually unpredictable. I never know what one second to the next will bring, and no matter how much I think I’ve perfected the art of mapping out my destiny, life has a way throwing a wrench into my well-devised existence.


When disaster bulldozed my nicely planned out long weekend, it was easy to curse the world around me for the mishap. But in actuality, a jarring break from the revision process is just what I needed to help me to reevaluate my desire to control the uncontrollable. The truth is that the less control I have over the creative process, the more authentic my voice and the less contrived the writing is.



Control = Fear


I asked myself over the weekend, “Am I afraid to submit my story to an agent? Am I afraid of success?” I think that in a way, I am afraid of these things.

This isn’t to say that preparation such as character development and storyboarding should be eliminated. Good stories need to be mapped out to some extent. But to belabor the writing process to the point where it stifles it is just madness. And the way I see it now, pretending to be in control is really a form of fear.


I asked myself over the weekend, “Am I afraid to submit my story to an agent? Am I afraid of success?” I think that in a way, I am afraid of these things. Although I’ve gotten better over the years, I’m no stranger to self-sabotage. This originates from a deep-seated childhood trauma that in truth, and no matter what any therapist has ever told me, never goes away. Years of falling down and running into the same wall have taught me how to manage and overcome the trauma so that it doesn’t continue to reinforce bad decision-making and bad behaviors.



The Control Conundrum


The rituals of my existence anchor me to the present moment where I am less able to ruminate and endlessly deconstruct the things that I frankly have no desire to revisit.

But the trauma is always bubbling just under the surface, ready to spill out at a second’s notice if I let my guard down, or so it seems. Thus, the conundrum of control. I implement control over my life in order to abate the monsters in my closet. The rituals of my existence anchor me to the present moment where I am less able to ruminate and endlessly deconstruct the things that I frankly have no desire to revisit.


And yet the emotions attached to trauma are a lot like water. Building dams and holding it back will ultimately fail because emotions, like water, can never truly be restrained. Eventually, it will all flow to the surface.


Understanding Flow


Thus, the lesson of this weekend–to work in tandem with flow–to go with the flow–to let it all flow–and to know that in life, entropy always wins.

The builders who constructed my Victorian house understood flow. My house sits on top of a granite foundation that isn’t sealed on the back corners of the foundation. This allows the water to easily flow through the basement in the spring and during rain storms. The French drain on the perimeter of the basement catches the water and allows it to stream to the other end of the basement where it drains to the outside. The house was intentionally built on top of a spring so that the inhabitants could have access to water. Back then, climate change wasn’t a concern as it is today, and if this season’s insurmountable amount of rain is the new normal, then I will need to make some adjustments to the basement in order to accommodate mother nature. Perhaps the drain needs to be enlarged. A sump pump is a must, I know that.


My point is that the adjustments to my basement will facilitate flow, not hinder it. Thus, the lesson of this weekend–to work in tandem with flow–to go with the flow–to let it all flow–and to know that in life, entropy always wins. It is always wiser to be respectful of this reality than it is to delude myself into believing that I can control the uncontrollable.

Dreams and Shadowlands

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