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I’ve been in denial about how much control I really have. Life isn’t predictable. It’s a series of unforeseen events that happen regardless of my planning and preparation. Some things are in my control.
Most things aren’t.
Do you have a white-knuckle grip on control like I do?
Or are you one of the savvy ones who’s already learned that control is an illusion?
I want to be like you. The savvy ones who’ve learned how to loosen their control grip. I’m trying. I really am.
I used to think I controlled the Universe. Like, I could efficiently plan, tweak and twist my way into any number of feasible solutions to any number of potential problems.
It worked. For the most part.
And then my husband got a brain tumor. I couldn’t plan my way out of that conundrum. There were no tweaks or twists available for me to find a feasible solution to terminal cancer.
For the first time in my life, I was faced with learning a very humbling lesson.
I don’t control shit.
Control is an Illusion (aka I Never Saw it Coming)
How many times have you thought I never saw that coming when rehashing a particular situation or moment in time?
For example, I never saw my husband’s brain tumor coming. We were skipping along through life all normal like. You know, happy, near-perfect family doing the regular, happy, near-perfect family things. And then all hell broke loose with a Valentine’s Day diagnosis and a dead husband twelve months later.
Hmmnn..death was NOT on my agenda. How did a terminal cancer diagnosis slip past my painstaking life planning?
Turns out, my painstaking method of life planning and preparation over the years did nothing to prevent those I-never-saw-that-coming moments. But like a diligent Type-A perfectionist, I kept planning and preparing anyway. I kept tweaking and twisting anyway. I kept trying to control the Universe anyway.
And every time I thought I never saw that coming, it just gave me more ammunition to plan harder and prepare better for the next time. Like after my husband died, and my irrational fear of dying kicked in, I went to the doctor for mammograms, pelvic exams, skin cancer screenings, lung cancer screenings, physicals, vaccinations, and many other preventative screenings. Screenings upon screenings upon screenings! I changed my diet, filtered my already-filtered water, swallowed handfuls of vitamins recommended by my new functional-medicine doctor and read scores of articles on cancer prevention.
But then it got harder and harder pretending to be in control.
Worrying and Pseudo-Control is Exhausting
Quite frankly, it’s freaking EXHAUSTING trying to plan for every conceivable outcome of every conceivable event. Especially as a solo parent whose days are spent worrying not only about myself but making sure my kids don’t end up orphans. Oh, the worry about the kids! That’s a whole other blog post.
The worrying and pseudo-control careened off onto a path destined to make me sick. Both physically and mentally. The very thing I was trying to prevent.
My thoughts about how much control I really have began to shift. I started thinking maybe, just maybe, all the planning and preparing is for naught. My husband is dead. But, I’m alive. Maybe I should just “live in the moment” as they say. Not take everything so serious. Lighten up a little.
And then the Universe drove that message home (pun intended) both literally and figuratively.
I was rear-ended.
Ugh. I straight-up did not see that coming.
I Sure as Shit Can’t Control Other Drivers
One clear, sunny day I was out driving, minding my own business, when I stopped to turn left into a subdivision. My blinker was on, I was waiting for traffic to clear and some crazy lady cruising down the road at 50+ mph hit me from behind.
She never even braked. Just rammed right into me. I looked in the rear-view mirror at the moment of impact and thought, “holy fuck.”
I was driving my boyfriend’s car because my Minivan was in the shop. Thank goodness his Lincoln MKZ that took the brunt of the entire impact. The police officer said, after witnessing many car crashes like this one, “Lincoln is by far one of the safest cars on the road.”
The whole back end of the MKZ was destroyed, but my groceries in the backseat remained intact. Jars of salsa and soy sauce were in one piece.
And so was I.
I walked out of this mangled car with no injuries. Not even a scratch.
Now, I didn’t have any of those life-flashing-before-my-eyes moments. Or an out-of-body experience where I look down on the scene happening in real time. Because I’m not on heaven’s radar.
My guardian angels decided a car accident isn’t how I’m going out. Honestly, it felt as if the car was simply escorted off the road into someone’s yard. Yes, I took out a cable box and phone line before coming to a complete stop, but it could have been SO MUCH WORSE.
I could have turned into oncoming traffic instead of turning off the road. I could have hit a tree and been sandwiched between a mangled front and a mangled rear.
But, through no control of my own, I managed to get out of that car injury free. I guess it wasn’t my time to die. I definitely don’t have control over that fate.
Unfortunately, my boyfriend’s car is another story. It’s dead as a doornail. Headed for the total loss graveyard.
It’s Time to Surrender
I think it’s time to wave the white flag. Surrender to reality. Let that shit go.
To be clear, I’m not abdicating all responsibility and throwing my hands up in the air with a “well it’s all out of my control anyway!” attitude. The reality is that I do control some things. Let’s be real. We’re human beings with free will so we get to make choices about a good percentage of what goes on in our lives.
But I realistically control far fewer things than I previously imagined. I think it’s time to hang up my Controller of the Universe hat and bank on a more realistic moniker like…Controller of a Few Random Things Here and There.
I have been reminded on too many occasions that I am a tiny dot, a small crumb, a “who” living on an infinitesimal speck of dust in this immensely huge world of ours.
And that’s OK.
Like Pink, I don’t want control. I want to let go.
Widow Wrap Up
As hard as I try, I simply don’t have the capability to control every event in my life.
I don’t want to even try. Not anymore. Because it’s too hard. Too exhausting. And completely unrealistic.
A brain tumor and a car accident really put things into perspective. Life isn’t predictable. It’s a series of unforeseen events that happen regardless of planning and preparation. Some things are in my control.
But most things aren’t.
So, I’ll focus on the things I can control. Like my attitude, parts of my health and wellness, and boundaries.
That sounds like a better plan, don’t you think?