I'm currently participating in my first church small group. It's a 5 week journey called Obsessed. Leave. Your. Mark. The Week 2 Message was on the Three C's: Comfort, Comparison, and Control. Take a guess at which one I need to work on.
After I finished streaming the sermon I started working on the individual homework to prepare for group. The last task that I had to do was find an item I already own that represents my 'C' and bring it to group for "Show and Tell."
I started walking through my house looking for items that represent my C. I opened up almost every drawer and cabinet in the house, searched every storage closet, and fingered through my clothes. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. I circled the house again and still didn't see anything I wanted to bring. So I just stood there in the middle of my living room thinking, waiting for something to pop into my head.
"Noooooo! God, I am not bringing handcuffs to small group for church."
If you didn't already guess what my 'C' is, I'm sure you've figured it out now.
I started thinking, "There must be something else in this house.... Nope. Shit! That's thee perfect symbol for control... Oh God, but what are people going to think when I whip those out? I don't even use them, but they will think I do. Because what grown woman has handcuffs for no freaking reason?"
I already knew I was going to get that, "Mhm we know what you're doing" look.
I tried to figure out how the hell I was going to explain this without looking like a freak in front of church people. I am reserved and controlled in public. I don't want to be the center of attention. I don't speak loudly. I don’t want any eyes on me. I do my absolute best to not do anything that would be embarrassing or bring attention to myself. I like to hide in the corner and not be seen. So this was causing all sorts of anxiety.
The day of group comes and I pulled those bad boys out of the plastic bin in my closet, sat them on the bed and walked away. I had to take a nervous poop just thinking about what I was going to do that evening. I rehearsed my explanation probably 20 times, maybe 25 or more, I don't know.
I'm actually feeling some of those nervous feelings right now while writing this and it happened almost 2 weeks ago.
I got to group and the instructions said to show your object without saying anything and let the group guess what your 'C' is. FUCK. NO. WHY? I rehearsed this whole introduction and couldn't say any of it?! It felt like cruel and unusual punishment!
I started having a mini anxiety attack in my head. One of the guys was talking about his object and I couldn't even focus. I just knew he was going to point at me to go next. And he did just that. Ugh! In that moment I just wanted to sink into the couch and disappear.
But that wasn't an option. I reached for my purse and although I wasn't supposed to say anything, I snuck in, "I was a little hesitant about bringing my item, but Crossroads is a judgment free zone, right?"
Next thing you know they were hanging in the air for everyone to see.
If you could have been a fly on the wall. 30 seconds later I'm still holding them up, jaws are still on the floor, and no one had said anything yet. So I shook them a little bit creating the clanking sound of metal, and finally the guy next to me said, "Oh, yeah, we're supposed to be guessing your C..."
And now I had the opportunity to explain why I felt these handcuffs represented my C. C for Control.
This is when I really got uncomfortable, because I was about to get very honest and very vulnerable.
Handcuffs in the possession of a child, you simply think are used to play cops and robbers. Handcuffs in the possession of an adult you know are used during sex. Yes, they may have been purchased for that reason several years ago, but they have not been used more than once. They just sit in that plastic bin of mine, hidden underneath the satin robes and sexy little nighties. Put those things on me during sex and I will flip the fuck out. I MUST be able to move freely at ALL times and use my hands to physically communicate with my partner to signal to slow down, yes that feels good, no that's really uncomfortable, that hurts, stop. I am mentally and physically unable to release control of my body during this intimate dance.
I have similar feelings in the passenger seat of a car too, where I have no control. Mhm, I am one of those people that slams the brake that isn't really there like it's actually going to help decelerate the car. Yes, I jerk my head around whenever a lane change commences because I didn't see you look over your shoulder and check your blind spot. The only person I don't have to do this with is my mother. I never feel unsafe in her passenger seat. Everyone else, sorry I don't trust you or like your driving.
Oops I'm diverting because I'm getting uncomfortable and need a mental break from what's going on emotionally as I discuss this handcuff situation.
While these handcuffs represent my inability to release personal control, they also represent things that are controlling me that I need to break free from.
When I think of handcuffs I think of someone who has been arrested or is imprisoned. Someone who is not free to walk about the world as s/he pleases. Someone who has no rights. Someone who is told what to do and when to do it. Someone who has no authority over her/his own body. That's a literal representation.
Figuratively though, you and I are imprisoned in many other ways. I felt that these handcuffs represent being restricted by how society tells us to act and what society tells us to do. We are bound to our belief systems and shackled by the things other people believe about us to be true.
We are held hostage to who we used to be, what we used to do. We are taught to believe certain things are truth and then years later learn that it's not actually true, or that there is an alternative. I am now finding myself doing the hard work of unlearning things that have been seared into my brain for 27 years.
I have been imprisoned by the (negative) character traits myself and others use to describe me. Like a puppet, I act in such a way that solidifies it as truth, and then use the excuse "I am who I am" to not change or improve.
Fear holds us captive too. When I think about some of the things I did as a child and teen I realize I was not this fearful when I was young. Somehow along the way I learned that when I feel fear, it means I should not do or say what is causing me to feel that way. Now, I know it is the exact thing I need to do or say. Because it is only when we step outside of our comfort zone that we experience growth.
The person that I am in public is nothing like who I am in private and around my husband - goofy and free. I am reserved in public, controlled in public, worried about my reputation and what others will think in public. Sit up straight. Shoulders back. Cross your legs like a lady. Speak like you went to Johns Hopkins. Gel your frizzy edges down. Tame your kinks. Be honest, but not too honest. That's not something you tell people. Sit down. Shut up. Listen.
I am now at a point in my life where I am breaking free from these handcuffs and coming out of captivity. I am trying to live my life the way I want to live my life, by MY standards, not the world's. I am coming out of hiding. I am emerging from my shell.
Just 3 months ago, I would have never brought those handcuffs to a church small group. But last week I did that. And by doing that I gave everyone else present the permission to be vulnerable too. After everyone left, the group leader thanked me for doing what I did. I surprised myself with this one and felt like a fucking bad ass in the process.
There have been numerous times during the past two and a half months where I have cocked my head to the side and thought, "Who is this person I am becoming? Who will I be when this season comes to a close? Whoever it is, I can't wait to meet her. She is bold. She is happy. She is free."