Hello, my name is Hula and I’m a control freak. And my husband is holding his breath while reading this, wondering if by some miracle of God I’m about to admit that I might be wrong about something. Let it out, honey, I don’t know if I’m ready to go that far yet. It’s hard enough to admit that I have issues with control. Although, I have managed to admit to him twice in recent months that I was mistaken about something, much to his surprise. And mine. Don’t let it ever be said that I don’t try to work on my flaws. But let’s not tell him I was mistaken Saturday night when I insisted it was NOT Jim Carrey’s voice behind Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. And please don’t be jealous of how exciting our Saturday nights are around here.
Back to the control thing. I’m not sure where this compulsion comes from. I’d like to blame it on all those years I produced live newscasts and had to shoulder the blame when something went wrong in a show for which I was held responsible. But it started before that. I remember at our wedding rehearsal when the preacher asked me to come down out of the audio booth and take my position as the bride since I could not walk down the aisle and run the audio, too. Never mind that the person running the music was a radio deejay or that I had already dubbed all of the music to coordinate perfectly with all aspects of the ceremony, including my entrance which was to coincide with the final timpani crescendo of Pacabel’s Canon in D. God bless daddy for following his cue on the wedding day as missing it would have prevented us from arriving at the altar on the final notes of the song and would have made me twitch throughout the ceremony. Obsess much, Hula?
It permeates several aspects of my life. At the risk of embarrassing myself, this would probably be a good time to admit that I’ve planned my funeral and will leave strict instructions for my family on how it should be conducted ‘cause I can’t stand the thought of being put to rest with the wrong music or attitude. I would really prefer my funeral to be a celebration of my life, complete with tropical attire and leis, rather than some mopey affair with that God awful music the funeral home drags out. Insert shudder here. Which reminds me, do you think it would be tacky to have them play Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress at my funeral? ‘Cause I really think that would be a hoot. If I’m REALLY honest, I will admit that if I develop a terminal illness, I will be tempted to hold my wake before I expire so I can attend and make sure it all goes as planned. And I am well aware of how ridiculous that sounds.
I don’t remember being this way as a child. It’s not like I used to line up all of my toys in a methodical way, although I would get cranky if my Salmon Pink crayon went missing. In fact, I was quite the slob as a child, and I played with anybody and anything. My brothers will tell you I liked to run the show when it came to us playing together, but I think that was more of a “bossy big sister” kind of thing than a need to control my surroundings. I don’t remember being a control freak in high school either, although I’ve always been one to formulate a plan and follow it. I always finished my homework on time. I graduated college in exactly eight semesters, never having a class before 9am and never taking any classes that didn’t count for something. I went right to work after college and followed the exact career path I had planned, up until about age forty.
Despite a wonderful childhood with no trauma or abuse, somewhere along the way, I developed this need to control certain things. Not everything. I’m perfectly capable of sitting on a beach for a week without a specific plan of how I will spend the days. I typically don’t sweat the small stuff on a day to day basis, and don’t fret if the day doesn’t go as I thought it would. Not enough clean underwear? Okay, throw on the swimsuit and go for a swim. No cream? Use up the skim milk and live with runny Alfredo sauce on the noodles. But give me a project or an event, and I’m large and in charge. For the last few months, I’ve been in charge of training the volunteers to run the new AV system at church. Even though we’re 95% through the training process, it takes all the strength I have to sit in the pew and stay out of the AV booth in the balcony on the days I’m not scheduled to work. Seriously, it makes me very uncomfortable to not be up there pushing the buttons; even though my brain knows the importance of letting people get the blessing they want from doing the jobs they volunteered for.
And this trip to Europe? Aye, yi, yi. I’m about to drive myself crazy with the details. I did all of the planning for it, opting not to use a travel or booking agency because I knew we’d get more for our money that way and have a more flexible schedule. We should be good to go. I’ve done my research, bought online tickets to avoid lines, printed maps of certain things we want to see and printed directions for things like getting on the right Metro line from the airport to our apartment. But I can’t stop checking and rechecking the details. I think part of it is a lack of trust in booking stuff online. I called our hotel in London Friday to make sure they had the reservation I made through booking.com, and the lady at the hotel acted like I was silly for double checking. Call me crazy, but I couldn’t stand the thought of arriving at our hotel at 8am Friday after having spent hours on an overnight flight and finding out during the height of the summer tourist season that the hotel did not have our reservation. I had a big sigh of relief when I opened up my email Sunday and found a message from American Airlines telling me they look forward to having me fly with them this week. That meant one less person I needed to call and confirm they still had my reservation.
I have left our online receipts on TWO emails accounts that can be accessed from any country in case I need to print them over there. I have in hand TWO printed copies of all the receipts, and I locked our passports and Paris apartment keys in the home safe to prevent them from being lost in a theft or a fire between now and Thursday. Never mind that if we have a fire in the next two days, we’ll be staying home. I have list after list of things I don’t want to forget. Flashlights for the Catacombs, a Sharpie for writing our names at Abbey Road, umbrellas and on and on and on. I had to go through my lists Saturday and throw away the ones I don’t need any more. When I get on that plane and actually get in the sky I know I will start to relax and enjoy the trip. And I truly have tried to build an itinerary that allows us to see as much as we can while still having some flexibility to change our minds about certain things, but sister mercy I’m going to drive myself crazy between now and then. For instance, I know I will check my purse at least three times on the trip to Nashville Thursday morning, making sure I haven’t forgotten my wallet and the folder of receipts. How do I know this? Because I do it every time we fly out of Nashville on a trip. After the first check (some ten minutes out of the house), I try to make myself stay out of my purse, but I end up pretending to dig for a mint while I’m really taking a peek at my wallet. It makes me crazy that I make myself crazy. I’m going to try to be really good and not be so obsessive these next few days, but honestly, if you gave me a chip for 30 days of good behavior, I’d just be checking my purse every now and then to see if it was still there.
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