I should have liked to have had less sticky out ears. As a child I remember falling asleep on alternate sides each night in a feeble attempt to push my ears closer to my head.
Seventeen years have passed and my ears stick out no less than when I was eight. I did grow into them eventually and they don’t bother me much these days. Ears were something on the list of things I really had no control over. They were joined to my head at birth and destined to stay there, I hope.
For the last five minutes I’ve been thinking about all the things in life I really do have no control over. Whether my train attempts to get me fired each morning by turning up fifteen minutes late or if someone cuts in front of me while I’m waiting impatiently for an over-priced coffee.
Your partner cheating on you, a friend spoiling the ending of that book (bitch) and food poisoning from a restaurant is out of your control. Rain falling on your wedding, your uncles remark about being too podgy to squeeze behind his chair at the dinner table these days, that emergency C-section, that single strong hair on your chin and the black ice you skidded on this morning. Again, not your fault. Nor is the bird that shit on you, Ali getting Alzheimer’s at the end of the notebook and that there will be no more seasons of the American Office.
I could go on. It’s very easy to list the things in life that we are unable to control because that’s the whole point isn’t it, life is uncertain.
At the time, when bad things happen to us, it’s easy to think we could have avoided the situation all together and that things like this just shouldn’t happen. It’s your own fault that you were too ill to go into work and someone else got promoted and it’s your own fault that your loved one looked elsewhere because we should never have started peeing with the door open.
You and I both know that some things in life are beyond our control but we punish ourselves for them anyway.
Trying to list the things we are fully in control of is much harder. In fact, let’s just say that anything involving the thought process of another human is entirely out along with any external factors. For example, you have no final say in whether the waiter will actually bring your steak out well done and no input whether someone pulls out in front of you at a junction.
I’m not saying that hard work isn’t rewarded or that you have no control over where you go in life. You do have some and your ability to make decisions, ask for what you want, drive to an airport or stop taking the contraceptive pill may start you down a different path but whether everything goes swimmingly along that is ultimately, out of your hands.
We tell ourselves and try our best to control every aspect of our life because it gives us comfort. We even try and defy the process of ageing. We lie to ourselves about life being something we can map out, tuck in and lift up to help deal with its uncertainty.
During a time of massive change for us all, there’s been a lot of talk about not knowing what the future holds but my take, is that we never knew anyway. Tomorrow has never been promised and your next moment in life will always be uncertain, even if you’ve planned it.
This doesn’t have to sound as scary as it does. Once you lean into the fact that you can’t control everything the pressure is off and the ‘working hard but rolling with it’ mindset enters.
But are we left with anything we can really control?
After much deliberation, and many glasses of wine, I have come to the conclusion that the only thing we have control over is how we feel inside in response to something we can’t control. An external factor.
Yes, that man pushed in front of you while you were queuing for coffee but how you handle that is on you. You could smile and think poor bugger obviously needs it more than me or get angry, tell eleven colleagues about the event and then have it written on your tombstone. The choice is yours.
If we always let external factors, for example, another human being, decide how we feel then we’re sort of prisoners in our own body. When choosing how you feel and react to a situation is all you’ve got don’t give that wonderful task of deciding to someone else.
You may think, like I did that you don’t tend to let anyone else really dictate your feelings. I then received a rude message from someone and I went from peaceful to pissed off in approximately four seconds. That’s how easy we allow someone else to ruin our otherwise lovely day.
Being able to stay peaceful while life attempts to make you lose your shit is hard and takes a lot of self-awareness and practice but I think it’s worth it.
You get the final say on your feelings inside and the rest? We’ll have to wait and see.
Lots of love,