Out of Control

It’s Monday, which means it’s almost Tuesday and my brain is coming up empty when I try to write my blog. I tell myself that I should not have a hard time writing a blog. After months of sending out weekly words, it should be easy, almost second nature. It doesn’t matter what I tell myself, because this week the words do not want to come.


So far, I have tried to write about moving, pronouns, sleep (or lack thereof), Ani DiFranco and trees, but each has been a series of empty disconnected words forced to sit together on my computer screen. After several unproductive hours of writing and erasing in equal measures, I am forced to admit that I cannot make the words play nicely if they don’t want to play. I actually don’t have control over the flow of words that pass through my mind and on to the screen of the computer.


Just like I didn’t have control over the flow of blood coming out of my son’s head when he ran into a screw sticking out of a sign at the park this past weekend. I couldn’t control the hours that we waited in emergency while his hair and the bandages became steadily more pink. I could do nothing while they stitched up the dime sized hole in his head left by the screw. All I could do was feed him snacks, cuddle him and read to him from Harry Potter, hoping that it would all be enough.


And it was. It was enough. Not because of anything miraculous that I could do, just because it wasn’t really that bad. Now, he has a summer warrior story and I have a lingering feeling of exactly how little I can actually do to keep my kids safe. Even if they do everything they should and I teach them everything they need to know, they can still get hurt or sick and I actually can’t do anything about it.


That’s the reality right there isn’t it? There is actually nothing I can do about anything at all. It isn’t just these words that I can’t control, it’s my kids getting hurt, my cats staying in the yard, the canker worms that are killing my plum tree and the Shaw workers who are too busy to come and fix my internet connection. I will not try to write an exhaustive list of the things that I can’t control because my blog would probably run out of character allowance (is that a thing?), before I would run out of things that I can’t control.


I can’t control anything, and neither can you. We sit here in our own little bubbles of concrete, plaster and glass and pretend that we are making decisions about what will happen next in our lives. On a good day, because of the privilege most of us enjoy, we get to pretend really well. We get to sink back into that illusion of control and feel really comfy and safe. Or do we? The skyrocketing sales in prescription anti-anxiety medication makes me think that even when this illusion is at its peak, there is still some part of us that secretly knows that we are pretending.


That is the part that many of us are trying to medicate away, the part of us that sits and screams incessantly that anything could happen at anytime. The part that is acutely aware that neither us nor any of our loved ones are immortal and that the facade we have built in our lives and our minds does not actually come with a lifetime guarantee.


I think that is why people are drawn to video games. Electronic games are set up to give positive affirmations, attractive incentives and a complete feeling of control. I can move things around, make characters jump or fight. I get to start over if it doesn’t work out and if it pisses me off, I can shut it off. The more I play, the better I get and the stronger my feeling of comfort and control in this tiny aspect of an otherwise indomitable life.


Or at least my students tell me this works for them. Sadly(?) this has never worked for me. I just can’t get in and give myself over to the video game. I end up feeling more anxious and frustrated than relaxed and if I play some of the newer, fancier games, I sometimes also end up feeling motion sick.


What’s left then? Is there comfort in knowing that none of us have control, that whatever crazy ride we’re on, we’re all in it together? Should I just shore up my illusion against any holes that might appear, and use my words (when they are cooperating) to smooth out any rough spots?


Maybe. Or maybe the only answer is just to be grateful for this time, right now. Be grateful that I have a few hours to spend trying to make uncooperative words play nice on the page. Grateful that there is food in the kitchen and fresh water coming out of the tap. Grateful that my orchid is in bloom and that the new floors we put in don’t scratch easily. Even on a bad day, when I start to look around at this life I get to live, it is enough, it has to be, not because of anything spectacular or particular that I have done. Just because for me, this is all there is and if I have to choose between stewing over what I cannot control and basking in what I can appreciate. I will always try to choose gratitude.

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