When I was young, there was a game called “Red Light, Green Light”. One child was the “traffic light”, and stood facing away from the other players. The rest of the kids lined up about 6 feet away from the “light”. In the game, the child who’s “it” yells “green light!” and everyone runs toward him or her. Then the “traffic light” yells, “red light!” and quickly turns around. Anyone who’s still moving has to go back to the beginning of the line and start over. The goal is to stealthily get to the front, “tag” the child who’s the “traffic light” and then become “it”. If the children playing are about the same age, with the same physically abilities, it gives everyone a fair shot at “controlling” the light.
Unfortunately, many of us arrive at adulthood with someone being the “traffic light” that let’s us know when we have to “stop”, when we can “move forward” and when we have to go back to the beginning and “start over”. That’s not good, because we lose our personal power. I know of people (more often women than men) who give up making decisions for themselves because they are in relationships with a much more forceful person. For them, not controlling the light is a lot easier than standing up or speaking out. Sometimes it’s looked at more pragmatically- “he brings in the money so I don’t think I have a right to an opinion (or thought or feeling)”. When you feel as if you don’t the right to make choices, your sense of self becomes seriously devalued. Other times handing over control of the light happens because a person has no idea how to even BEGIN to make decisions on his or her own.
Many of us, too often, make choices that allow someone else to be the traffic light of our homes while we put OUR needs behind everyone else’s. Even if, or when, we have deep care, concern and love for those we live with, we risk losing what we NEED, want and desire by always waiting for the “sign” to light up. We may feel that by playing the game by the rules of the “leader”, we’re being a team player. The problem comes in when the leader’s desires or choices are inconsistent with the life we want to live.
We may learn to make quick, smooth moves so we’re never caught doing what wasn’t “approved”.
We may sneak items into the home because our spouse really doesn’t think that, “Tommy needs a new pair of shoes”.
We may spend time with people we really don’t like because it’s not worth sticking up for what’s important to us.
We might be an outstanding actor showing the outside world that we “have it all”, but actually be living in a really miserable or sad situation with a completely controlling person.
Years ago I knew a young woman who was one of those people who looked like she “had it all”- a husband who owned a successful business, beautiful children, a lovely home. From outside appearances she did have it all. Behind closed doors it was a very different story. The husband participated only when it was convenient for him and only on his terms. They could have a home full of people, having a wonderful time, but as soon as the last guest was out the door, he ignored the wife and the kids. It was all “smoke and mirrors”. What looked great on the outside didn’t reflect anything that was going on inside. He was the traffic light. When he said, “it’s okay to talk or smile or laugh”, they talked or smiled or laughed. He was the barometer of everyday life; day in and day out, and he controlled it all, like a puppet master. She didn’t know what to do as a young mother. When she finally got the courage to take back her and her children’s lives, people were shocked. She often heard, “but I thought you were the perfect family”, or “we had no idea you were so unhappy”.
Please don’t let anyone be the barometer of your reality. YOU should be the person forecasting the changes in your life.
On a busy road, a traffic light is necessary. Without those signals we’d have to rely on everyone being fair, and taking his or her turn. Without stop lights there would be a lot more accidents and it would probably end up taking longer to get anywhere. In life, though, we need to own our path. Sure there are many times when we might need advice, counsel or guidance, but that’s very different from someone controlling every move we make. I imagine there are people for whom it feels “safer”, or less pressure-filled, to allow someone else to make decisions; to tell them when to slow down, stop or go. By acquiescing that power to others (or one other), those folks might end up feeling like they don’t need to have responsibility for their lives. In too many parts of this world there are people who are forced to live each moment under the control of another. For most of us that’s not the case, but we don’t understand how valuable that freedom of choice is.
Sometimes WE want to be the “traffic light” in the life of someone we care about, even though that person’s old enough to think on his or her own. We may believe that we’re much wiser in others’ lives than we are in our own, so we want to impart that wisdom. I think parents struggle with that a lot with their adult children. We love our kids so much and we want what’s best for them. Sometimes that translates into offering advice that’s not solicited or trying to share the “wisdom of our experiences”. In spite of my best intentions and desires to not do that, I’ve slipped up from time-to-time.
Finally, having control of the traffic light, in your life, doesn’t always mean you have to go, go, go.
When you’re a grown up, it’s important to know
when to embrace the green light and go full speed ahead,
when to acknowledge the yellow light and slow down and look around,
and when honor the red light and simply stop,
and be still,
and be aware,
then wait for the internal green light to say “go”.
©2015 Peace Full Home/Intentional Living
p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”: #28. Laugh often (and out loud whenever possible); I think that laughter often is ‘the best medicine”. A home that’s filled with laughter is good for you. It can aid in relaxation, boost your energy and, sometimes, even lessen pain!