Five weeks ago, I moved in with my boyfriend. He recently bought a bungalow in Chicago, and what was once a household of two became a household of five.

It’s what I wanted and let me be clear – I adore the hell out of him – but it’s caused my stubborn AF inner control freak to nearly lose her mind.

Yes, I’m a control freak.

Moving in together has unveiled some serious control issues I barely realized I had. We are not a couple that gets swept up in drama. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve had a go-to-bed-upset incident in our nearly two years of dating.

Well, shit hit the fan the other day when my beloved hung a canvas of Hoboken, New Jersey’s skyline in our bedroom.

The incident that sparked the drama would seem inconsequential or even laughable to most, but for me, it was like the weight of every struggle I faced as I tried to adapt to my new living arrangement bore down on me with a vengeance. In short, my ability to create a space that was in harmony with my lifestyle was in jeopardy, and I wasn’t handling it well.

I adopted a victim mindset.

I wallowed in my misery and focused on the “unfairness” of it all.

I wondered if I should move out (yes, I actually went there…my brain isn’t always my friend). But, I adore my boyfriend to the moon and back. Going to sleep and waking up next to him are literally the highlights of my days, and I didn’t want my control issues getting in the way of that. I was experiencing a state of profound dis-ease and felt thoroughly defeated and exhausted.

And then I shifted my focus.

What if you were profoundly at peace with your own inner world?

I came across a quote similar to this that day, and it was just what I needed to help me begin to shift my focus.

The problem is that I had been trying to create an external environment that reflected the internal harmony I craved. I was seeking tranquility in the external – if my home had the right vibe, then all would be well – and I had made my wellbeing dependent on this. But,

Internal harmony is an inside job.

External harmony – when it exists – is fragile and fleeting. Any sense of control I have over my external world is an illusion. No matter what I do, something will eventually disrupt all semblance of harmony. Simply put, I can’t always get what I want or even what I think I need.

However, I do have control over what I say to myself, the way I react to my environment, and where I choose to place my focus.

If I direct my focus on being at peace with myself and in spite of whatever is happening around me, my wellbeing is not dependent on the cooperation of my external circumstances.

But shifting my focus is easier said than done.

If only it was as easy as telling myself to just relax, stop being petty, and find tranquility in the midst of chaos.

Well, doing this is hard AF. When the feedback loop from hell is replaying in my head, when I feel justified in my anger, when he’s not doing it right, it’s incredibly challenging for me to return to a state of grace.

And, when I’m super worked up I can forget about meditating because my mind is far too active. That’s right – my go-to tool for just about everything is useless when I’m in the midst of an uber-stressed state like the one I was in the other day.

Barring divine intervention, the only thing that works when I’m having such a meltdown is to both remove myself from my environment and crave to see things differently.

So that’s what I did…

I got outside and reflected on what my heart craved.

I spent hours that day at the lagoon near my home. I walked barefoot through the soft grass, admired the beauty of hundreds of monarch butterflies dancing in the breeze, watched a heron stalk fish, and gazed at turtles sunning on driftwood.

I listened to this Spotify kirtan playlist on repeat and filled my heart with love’s warmth.

And, I reflected on being at peace with my inner world so that it wouldn’t matter what my wonderful boyfriend wanted to hang on our walls.

The result? My inner control freak chilled TF out.

The next day, I re-hung up the canvas of Hoboken in our bedroom and a few days later I replaced it with a clock that better matched the decor. We both seem satisfied with this compromise.

I don’t want my happiness to depend on whether things go my way. So often they don’t, and it sucks to give away my power so readily. Being forced to reckon with myself in these instances allows me to reclaim my power. I have the power to be at harmony when there’s a shit storm around me, chaos ensues, or my boyfriend wants to hang a pic of the Jersey skyline in our bedroom.

Here are the exact steps I took…

…to help me change my focus when I was too worked up to meditate, things weren’t going my way, and I was struggling to adapt to change:

  • 1. I physically removed myself from my environment.
  • 2. I went to my favorite spot in nature to process things.
  • 3. I listened to kirtan music (chanting), which deeply nourished my heart.
  • 4. I reflected on what it would take to become at peace with my inner world, in spite of my external world.

I know that not everyone has the luxury of living next door to such a beautiful nature sanctuary, and kirtan is admittedly not to most Westerners’ tastes. So, if I were to give advice, I’d suggest going anywhere that’s away from the triggering environment – maybe the library or coffee shop if nature’s not an option. And try listening to music that uplifts your spirit. This combination alone is often enough to end my feedback loop from hell. Let me know if it works for you!

Another tool in my toolbox is “riding the wave.” This is probably the simplest approach I could have taken (I would have tried it first had it entered my consciousness in that moment). If you’d like to read more about riding the wave, check out this post.

Final thoughts

The tools I used to change my focus can be applied to pretty much every situation where dis-ease is present. But, if circumstances don’t allow you to work through the above steps, practicing gratitude may help. 

Practicing gratitude is super simple – just identify several things about the situation and/or person that you are truly grateful for. There are always things to find…and if you truly can’t find something, you can be grateful for being given the opportunity to grow from the incident (check out this post for inspiration).

And just in case it needs to be stated, if your external world includes abuse of any kind, please get help. These tools are not intended to help rationalize or accept violence of any kind.