PROVOCATIVE QUESTION – CONTROLLING OUR LIVES – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #40

And so the question is:

Control is an illusion. It’s what we all believe we’ve got until our life takes a sharp turn and hits a big rock or slides into the ditch. Crash.

All of your firm beliefs that nothing can stop you doesn’t help because there are things — many things — that can stop you.

I love when people tell me nothing can stop them, that whatever they want, they can get it. All they have to do is want it enough. I don’t argue with people who talk like that. They believe it and who am I to argue?

I’ve hit a lot of rocks, ditches, sharp turns. I’ve had my “life vehicle” battered to wreckage. I learned, painfully and slowly there is a time to put down the reins, look in the mirror and face reality. Even when it isn’t what you want.  There comes a time to give up trying to control your world and go with the flow. To find a better path.

Your perfect, beautifully controlled life can turn upside-down in a split second. For others, it’s slower. For me, it was at the pace at which bones and joints calcify. I refused to pay attention to the wreckage of my spine. It was mind over matter. I was strong. I could make it work, no matter what.

Good idea. But mind-over-matter only takes you so far. Major life changes do not happen in an afternoon. True they can occur in one messy crash … or they can take over bit by bit over decades. I found a great doctor who told me something I had heard before but had hoped there was another answer.

He said: “Your back has got you through this far. It’ll take you the rest of the way. Pain control, gentle exercise. Recognize your limits. Don’t do anything stupid. No car crashes. No falling. No lifting.”

No horses, no hauling. Got that. And of course, this was before all the heart surgery, which further eliminated the likelihood of any of these perilous activities. So. I’m not doing anything stupid.

Okay, I’m not doing anything very stupid. Maybe only a little stupid. And nothing that will break anything that isn’t already broken.

There’s no moral to this story. It’s life. If you don’t die young, you will get old. Which means unless you are exceptionally lucky, parts of you will hurt. Whether or not you are in a position to help fix the hurt with surgery, exercise, physical therapy, or medication? It depends on what’s wrong.

The only thing you cannot plan is a life over which you maintain full control. No one gets that.

We all have some control, but ultimately, no one has full control. Ever.

When life throws you a curve, you have a choice. Spend your time fighting for something you can’t be or do — or with a bit of grace, find your way to being whoever you are now, in this time and place.

Not winning all the battles doesn’t have to be tragic. That is where you have some control. You can view changes as a challenge or as a catastrophe. How you see them is up to you. Pretending they aren’t there can be calamitous.

Reality is not the worst place to live. Life is full of weirdness, lies, and illusion, but going face-to-face with the truth can be uplifting. You don’t have to give up living. You do have to learn to live a life that works. For you.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Opinionated writer with hopes for a better future for all of us!

22 thoughts on “PROVOCATIVE QUESTION – CONTROLLING OUR LIVES – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. Marilyn, this piece is so good, so personal in detail yet universal in substance. While giving the sedative shot before last Monday’s colonoscopy, the nurse in her twenties/thirties announced wonderful news. “Well, this will be the last time you have to do this. We don’t do them after 80!” Hmmm. Yup! What she didn’t know was that my mother died of colon cancer two months after she diagnosed following a year if misdiagnoses and no previous colonoscopy. So, for this irresistibly handsome 77 year-old codger, it simply is what it is. “We all have some control, but ultimately, no one has full control. Ever.

    “When life throws you a curve, you have a choice. Spend your time fighting for something you can’t be or do — or with a bit of grace, find your way to being whoever you are now, in this time and place.”

    Yes. NOW, not younger. Not older. Here in Chaska, Minnesota. Not some other city or state from the past (PA, TN, IL, WI, NY, OH) when the world, it seemed, was my oyster. The coasts of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf of Mexico are full of shells of what once was alive. One day at a time. I need to learn to a life that works. For me.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that may be the definition of Grace. In Israel, I met a very old Rabbi who was leader of an important sect of other such men. I was no one — not even remotely religious, Yet, out of the blue, he told me I would live a life of goodness and Grace — and I think I forgot it until just now. Thank you.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. “I love when people tell me nothing can stop them, that whatever they want, they can get it. All they have to do is want it enough.” I think you’re describing Donald Trump. Unfortunately for us, he seems to be succeeding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For now. But he didn’t get there alone. We helped. Whether we knew it or not, we all helped get him to where he is. All those years when we were sure someone else would “fix” things and “we were too busy to get involved”? That was us, “good” people doing nothing. We ALL made him what he is. And we all made the earth the way it is.

      Good people doing nothing aren’t good people.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. That’s a tough question, Marilyn, but you’ve tackled it with your characteristic wisdom and level-headed approach. You’re completely right, of course, no-one is in complete control, because it’s impossible to be. There are simply too many variables and outside influences. And there’s other people who affect what happens to us. I didn’t expect to have an autistic child, but when you do, you lose control over everything while they’re little. My dad didn’t expect to get Parkinsons Disease aged 35, but he did. But I do believe that you can partially take control, you can own your bumps and crashes to affect a better outcome. That’s what my dad did. He fought the disease determinedly and kept a positive outlook all his life, and in the end he lived until he was 79. The specialists said they’d never known a case like his.

    I also think that believing nothing can stop you is a good attitude, even though it’s not true, because it gives you a mindset of strength, stamina and tenacity which means you’re more likely to succeed. But in reality, we all need to put a caveat at the end of the declaration: Nothing can stop me – within reason. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nothing can stop you from doing what’s possible. But some things are impossible and I think the better part of life is recognizing what you can do and not battling to do what you can’t. It doesn’t need to BE a tragedy. You can be your best, enjoy what you’ve got, and accomplish a lot. Some things require talent you may not have or abilities you can’t control and to fight for these things is basically silly. Why? When there is so much that CAN be done.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I believe we have a lot of control over our perspective. Like your dad, Alli, my dad got a serious illness at a young age — MS at 27. I never knew him when he wasn’t sick. but the whole time I knew him he was brave, philosophical, angry, determined, funny, sincere, creative and brilliant. He dreamed of being a poet, but he was a mathematician. The last thing he said to me was, “Keep writing.” Maybe in the 20 years I had him in my life I got some of that, too.

      One thing I got was the knowledge that we’re all going to be fucked up somehow, we will give up some dreams for the sake of others, and we will die. I learned early to “seize the day.” When I was in my early 40s, I realized I was entering the part of life my dad didn’t get to live. I felt privileged. So, yeah, now I am 67, I have arthritis and a small income, but I also have a place to live here in Heaven, amazing friends, great dogs, my mind, the use of my fingers, the possibility of joint replacement — and diabetes, hypertension and skin cancer. My body is covered with scars — my dad said, when I was a kid, that scars from falling off my bike and so on were “badges of courage.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perspectives and beliefs are the areas where most of us have control. Life may be bumpy and health may be difficult, but we can at least hang on to our sense of right and wrong. Maybe it’s the only thing over which have control.

        One of the more interesting things that happened since I got older is I’ve loosened up. I was MUCH more controlled when I was younger. I suppose I didn’t have a choice. With a full-time marriage, child, household, and social life, I’m surprised I found time to work.

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      2. Thanks for your lovely reply to my comment, Martha, and for telling me your own dad’s story. It seems we had similar experiences with our fathers. It sounds as though he was an amazing character, and you must be very proud of him. Strange that he dreamed of being a poet and you teach poetry, and you’re a writer yourself. I think these experiences definitely give you a certain perspective on life, and ‘seize the day’ or the opportunity, perfectly describes my outlook too. Your dad was right, scars are ‘badges of courage’; they’re part of our individual stories and they help to make us who we are. I’m sorry you have these health issues, but it sounds as though you have his great spirit and attitude, and you bear it all with good grace. You’re right, of course, the trials of life and the inevitabilities come to us all, and I do believe that the ‘no-one can stop me’ belief helps us to get through it all. Keep going, you’re doing a great job. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Nothing like a car accident to make you realize how little control you have over things. But you do have a certain amount in many of the decisions you make in your life.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, we make decisions. But we don’t have the slightest idea whether we’ve made a good decision, a bad decision, or something that isn’t going to make any difference at all. We can try to make the best possible decisions, but I can think of a dozen jobs I took thinking I was getting a perfect position which turned out to be bad or meh. And that’s WITH research. When everything goes well, we like to think we “made it happen, we’ve got it under control.” Until we hit that ditch!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Truth. I had a vague idea about “getting old” but never really thought it would happen to me. I mean, I still don’t think it will. So there’s that.

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