List the things in your life you are actually able to control:
What?? My first thought is to rail against this question: “Nothing! Nothing! It is all out of my control!” Often, that’s how it seems. Big things and small, out of my control.
- I lost a dear friend last week, to the same dread disease that killed my mother. Of course, I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t spare him the pain. I couldn’t say or do a thing to make his transition easier. I couldn’t visit; he couldn’t take calls. I continued to write letters, but I have no idea if he received them, or was able to read them. The whole thing was out of my control. The week before, I lost another friend. Again, I could do nothing about it. I’ve heard it my whole life, and it’s true: the older you get, the more you have to learn to say good-bye. It’s out of my hands.
- Though I care deeply about what is going on in the world, in our government, in our streets and in our schools…though I always vote, and speak up when I can…it does not feel like I have any control. From the bottom of my heart, I care that children go hungry, that people suffer, that there is injustice and cruelty in this world…but the difference I can make to any of it is negligible. It matters to me that we seem to have a buffoon in the White House, that children are not safe in their own schools, that the climate seems to be spinning out of control to the danger and detriment of all life…and I feel helpless. Through it all, I act, speak up, rail against the system, vote, march, sign…and I know that my efforts are not worthless…but also that I have no control over the end results.
- My weight. Even though my diet has remained the same – basically healthy foods, heavy on fruits and vegetables, perfectly reasonable – one that I have enjoyed for years, that fits my tastes and my life…I have been gaining a pound or two a week, for the last month. After maintaining the same weight for the last seven years. In the cruel joke department: the weight gain started at the same time I started planning a trip to Florida with my sisters!
- My appetite. Along the same line of conversation, when I do decide it is time to go on an actual, serious diet, I think of nothing but food: the foods I cannot have; the portions I have to limit; how hungry I feel; how deprived I am; and when will it be dinner time??
- My appearance. I need to move off of this topic, and variations of it, I know…but there is always the mirror, with some new wrinkle every day…
- Which goes along with the general aging process (and then I’ll drop the subject!) that includes aches and pains, loss of ability, loss of memory, a hundred minor inconveniences…all out of my control.
- My budget. This has been a very slow winter here on Beaver Island. Business has been slow at the hardware store. Hours have been cut, to compensate. Which has wreaked havoc with my budget. When my basic monthly expenses – before groceries and gasoline – add up to more than I am bringing home in a month…when the little dog needing to see the veterinarian and the car needing a new battery work to dig the hole even deeper…when I have to empty every stash of coins just to buy dog food…when I have to borrow money just to make ends meet…this feels totally out of control.
Tiny (hardly worth mentioning) things:
- The weather.
- Other people’s moods.
- Other people’s opinions (though I often try…).
- My dogs. Whether it is at the neighbors, the road truck, or the wild turkeys that wander through the back yard, when they feel the need, my dogs bark…and I can’t stop them. No matter how many times I calmly tell them “We’re okay,” they bark until they decide to stop. It’s out of my control.
But, the question was not what was out of my control, but what I am able to control. As I see it this morning, that’s a very short – but important – list. When the world – and my life – seems to be spinning, crazily, in all directions…the thing I can control is this:
- My reaction to it.
That’s it. But, the good news is that, most of the time, that’s enough.