Trying to Control What Cannot Be Controlled

I am tired of trying to hold together things that can’t be held. Trying to control what cannot be controlled.” These words took on a glow, a forgotten treasure of truth, buried 400 pages into an immersion-experience-of-a-book, the The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern.

I’ve been able to savor this read mostly because I got stopped in my tracks (literally) by a traffic accident less than a month ago. For the last week, I have been dipping into renewed and shocking awareness of the line between life and death, through the vehicle of whiplash and a fortuitously small broken bone. My little Prius was slammed head-on by a van on the very day I set aside for a Time Out and a reboot of a life that had been feeling a bit serious, a bit rushed, a bit out of control, despite all my attempts to rein it in.

On the way to the sudden collision, I was in the midst of multiple “ahas” about my ultimate inability to control of much of anything. Deeply fatigued, I responded by   attempting to micromanage my life, my dog, my family—a certain recipe for failure. Even my ridiculously skilled subtle manipulations just weren’t working any more.

But the biggest cost was the gradual erosion of my commitment to my interior world. In my desire to create peace and love in the world around me, I had aborted my own deepest need for quiet, reflection and personal connection. In little ways. Responding to email before mediating. Skipping yoga to work with a client nine time zones away. Not (really) taking a vacation for a long time.

Somewhere Way Back When, I decided that this was my job: to make sure that the world was stable. That nothing and nobody around me got broken because of something I did. I got very good at managing things, or at least the illusion that I could. This might have come in handy during my career as a mother and public educator, but it has long since lost its effectiveness.

The next words from the book burned brighter than the famous burning bush: “I am tired of denying myself for things that I want for fear of breaking things that cannot be fixed. They will break no matter what we do.”

May my ears be open and may I remember this truth. And may I celebrate and savor life in the middle of the breaking that cannot be contained.

How about you? Where do you cheat yourself of inner connection in little ways? Where do you sometimes try to control the uncontrollable? What things can you drop from that list? What needs savoring in your life right now?

One Response to “Trying to Control What Cannot Be Controlled”

  1. Anne Gordon

    These are such rich questions that you end with here Susan. It is so tempting at times for myself to get swept up unconsciously by the busyness of the world, only to leave inner connection behind. What a relief to imagine what I can drop from my control list! I feel instant peace. This summer I went “outback” in Canada with my family for 7 days where there was no wifi or cell phone coverage. Would you know it? Upon my return I found the world got along just fine without me! I’m off to read in bed…this is savory for me after a long day.


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