Plants First, Fish Next

The original intent of this journal was to chronicle the trials and tribulations of the struggling twenty-something, as I searched for love and happiness in the small city-burb of ManchVegas, NH. Now, I'm thirty-something, I've found love in many forms, happiness in even more, and now the struggle is just... well... life. And finding time to do the million and one things I want to do- including writing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Can and Can't

What I can't control:
  • The weather and other natural forces
  • The passage of time
  • Gravity
  • Other people's behavior and choices
  • The sound of my upstairs neighbor's vacuum
  • How other people drive
  • My genetic makeup
  • The eventual decay of food in my fridge
  • The price of gas
  • Mortality
  • The air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow
What I can control:
  • My own behavior, choices, and reactions to the list above.
Sure, one can mitigate against that which one can't control.  I own a big warm jacket because while I can't control the weather, I can make the choice to stay warm in my jacket.  I can't control how other people drive, but I can behave in a safe and alert manner on the road and wear my seatbelt.  I change my oil in my car to prevent the deterioration of the mechanical parts of my car engine.  I go to the doctor's and work out to slow the eventual breakdown of my body and organs.

Unfortunately, mitigation can often give the illusion of control.  Wash your hands, wipe down every surface with bleach, don't touch anyone, wear a mask, and you won't get sick.  But you can still get sick.  The illusion of control lulls us (ok, me) into a false sense of security: Do this and you can prevent that.  Exercise and good diet can keep a person healthy longer, but no one will live forever.  This false sense of security, placation, really, is in place to keep people from panicking on a daily basis.  Even with mitigation, people still panic.

I'm very comfortable thinking that I can control things.  The flip side of that is how completely uncomfortable I am not being in control.  If you've ever had me as a passenger in your car, notice that I don't pay attention to the road.  Or if I am paying attention to traffic, my legs are stiff, my right hand is gripping the handle, and I'm braced for impact.  I may also (likely will) make fearful gaspy noises when you or other drivers do things I don't expect.  This is not a testament to your driving (well, it may be, but I'd never tell you that), but an example of how much I hate not being in control.

In the final death throws months of my relationship with The Boy, when I was going to therapy to learn how to be in a relationship with someone with anxiety and depression, Therapist told me something that I've found valuable in every aspect of life.  I relayed to her a particularly bad fight we'd recently had, which included some more than harsh remarks verbal abuse from him.  She was shocked to hear what he had said, and when I told her that he was going through a particularly low time in his depression cycle (basicly "excusing" him), she said "He can't control his mood, but he CAN control his behavior."  Wow.  It seemed so obvious when she said it...

In that moment I knew The Boy and I were destined to be done. I realized that if he can control his behavior, by extension I could control mine, and that my behavior had lead me to stay in an unhealthy and unhappy relationship for years.  Only by changing my behavior could I change my situation. Her statement changed my entire paradigm.  I'm sure I've heard similar things said to me over the course of my life; either I wasn't ready to hear them or I didn't fully understand it as I did in that moment.  Not only could the boy control his behavior, that's all ANYONE can really control.  Mitigation against bad things happening is behavior.  Reacting to forces beyond our control is behavior.  Inaction is behavior.

So now when I feel the world is spinning out of my control and I feel like I'm floundering in a stormy sea, I remind myself: I can't control the world, only my own behavior towards it.

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  • At 9:58 AM , Blogger Kristin Marie said...

    Great attitude and one we could all better employ when dealing with a certain Skip.


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