In control?

by Anna Blanch on November 2, 2011

The absent minded professor stereotype might work for some, but it’s always seemed foreign to me.

I’ve always felt a slight obsession with detail comes with the territory.

If I’m honest I’ve often found a need welling up not just to keep track of the details, but to control them.

This last bit causes nothing but trouble.

But, being completely honest, the need to control the details has extended to the rest my life, long before I got round to academia. I think i’ve used the sense, however superficial, of order and planning to soothe me, to reassure me that there is logic to all of this. Yet, the world, though creation does tend toward order, it is messy and complicated and like vines growing in a forest has an order that transcends the superficial.

The beauty in the mess of life, and the tangential rabbit holes of research, have become a source of accidental joy. I still fight with my own need for order in the details and the ability to plan ahead. There are times where that particular tendency can be useful and helpful, but I need to watch that I don’t use it to cover over deeper need to understand the way the world works and my purpose within it.

The sheer breadth of skills I’ve felt I’ve needed to master to teach, write, research, and navigate the world of scholarly publishing and research, even tentatively, has always provided the kind of challenge necessary to keep me interested.

Actually, more than interested — it’s the variation that often inspires me. The variation, and the people and institutions I find myself interacting with, has helped me learn to me more adaptable and flexible about how quickly and efficiently other people do things. I find a paradox in my hesitancy to trust others, a weird reassurance in my confidence in my own sense of detail, and my willingness to trust God. It is a paradox, and not always a healthy and consistent one.

The desire to keep the small and large in focus has made me feel disconnected alot lately. I’m feeling a whole lot of “now but not yet.” Searching for a job seems out of order with the overwhelming amount of work I have left for my thesis to be where I want it to be. But all of these things need to happen in parallel and trust I must.

And I’ve started to reflect on just how my need for control over the details was to avoid anxiety and expressed a desire for a deeper reassurance. I do know that it’s pretty much impossible to control that over which you have no control!

The details are still important, but they are not everything.

I’m learning to be faithful in the little things and let go of the desire to control anyone or anything.

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Life: UnmaskedThis challenge and invitation from Joy in conjunction with post I wrote about “getting real” prompted my involvement with This Life: Unmasked.

This is my eighth post for the challenge. Here is my first: Life: UnMasked, my second, Ready or Not, my third, Is the Heart Home?, my fourth, Like Fireflies in the Night and Swallows in the morning, my fifth, This is a Choice, and my sixth, A little less of a superhero, and my seventh, Just another day…

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  • maggi

    Hi Anna. I am amused and a tiny bit worried to see myself turning into an absent-minded Professor – I keep forgetting day to day things. But I don't think the stereotype is of someone who doesn't care about details. It's more of someone who is so absorbed in the details of their academic project that they pour juice into their tea instead of milk, or forget to put the cat out. Me? I haven't poured juice in my tea yet, bjavascript:%20postComment(0);ut I locked my keys in the office last night (not for the first time) because I was still going over a line of liturgy in my head, trying to get the wording just right.

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