Controlling the Uncontrollable

Let it go...the cold never bothered me anyway..
— Elsa, Disney Princess

The East Coast of the United States where I live is bracing for a massive storm and I am bracing along with it. I am doing all that storm-related preparation we New Englanders are so good at: batteries, flashlights, full tank of gas, new shovels, extra water. I have the candles out. I cooked food ahead of time. I have a pile of books. I am charging all of my devices. I have my snowshoes ready.

And all of the storm prep was fine if it didn’t interfere with the other plans I had this week. I had a flight on Wednesday of this week for work and was optimistic (others might say in denial) that my flight would be fine. But I had it all worked out. The storm would end late Tuesday. And voila, I’d be headed to work. Look at me…in control of storm prep….AND still able to get to work. Maybe not leaping buildings in a single bound, but still.

Only, that’s not what is happening. And today was an object lesson in wanting to, and even trying to, control the uncontrollable. It’s an amazing thing to watch if you can get a little distance and maybe a smidge of compassion. I hurdled from one hope and one attempt to strongarm a solution to another. I joked with friends that it was all of Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief in one day, ending, finally with acceptance. This wasn’t the week I had planned but this is the week I was delivered.

Some of you have already learned this lesson about control because you are wise, or just better people than I am, but clearly, despite lots of practice, I have not. At around 2 pm today I was in serious knock-down-drag-out World Wide Wrestling Smackdown dressed, of course as the Illusion of Control trying to fight The Universe and in my delusional state, I even thought I was going to win.

Who won, you wonder? The Universe. Always does. On days like this I am reminded of learning to rock climb as a Girl Scout. You started struggling up the rock face feeling like you were so dangerously high up and really, when it got scary you could just put your feet back down on solid ground. It was there all the time.

When I finally put my feet back on the ground, I could see that it wasn’t the week I had planned, but it is a week to do with what I was given. And there really is something to the experience of acceptance. Of giving up the fight. Surrendering to what is. You can actually feel your breathing change. You can think again. You can look around and see possibility where before you could only see loss. The good news is that I have a week I didn’t plan and the whole adventure of the storm to practice.

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2015