Looking at my life, how much of it is formed by things outside my control versus things that are within your control? Please elaborate to the extent you feel comfortable.
We do not control our lives. If we are lucky, we may not experience much bad stuff. If we are less lucky, life can become pretty grim.
Fate, Karma, destiny, or Murphy’s Law — It’s all the same. No project goes quite as planned. No vacation is perfect. Some part of the meal won’t be ready when the rest of dinner is served. Guests come early, stay late, leave too soon, or not soon enough. Companies we work for decide to dump us because we cost too much or are too old, slow, or whatever. People we assume are honest turn out to be thieves. Complications, delays, and bumps in the road are the companions to everything we do. We cope. It’s not as if we have a choice.
Many things almost happen. When I was newly back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a carry-on bag (I love luggage). Got tickets to San Diego — not easy because most cross-country flights out of Boston go to Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are close to San Diego.
I got to La Guardia airport, but the plane didn’t. I had a connecting flight in Salt Lake City. Four hours later, the plane was MIA. I demanded my money back. The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?”
I was not feeling perky. “I took a long weekend from work and I won’t get that time back. Los Angeles is a long drive from San Diego and I won’t have a car. By the time I get there — if I get there — I’d have to turn around and immediately come home. I’ve spent a lot of money on taxis and lost my holiday time in exchange for an endless afternoon in your waiting room. None of this was was my fault. Return my money. Now.”
I got my money, took a taxi home, and spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself. I never made it San Diego or saw those friends. Eventually, I lost touch with them.
Our fondest illusion is control. We are proud to be the designers of our destiny and sure all we need is determination, education, and maybe a bit of luck, and the world will be ours. This is what our parents tell us when we are children and we believe them. It’s what they want to be true, but not. It’s a lie. The fairy tale of the life we feel we and those we care for ought to live.
We are sure if we do “life” right, we’ll get what we want.
You can try but some stuff will elude you and in the end, you will die as do we all. We are sure — because everyone says so — that good work will be rewarded. Kindness will be returned. If we eat right, keep fit, exercise, avoid drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, we’ll be healthy and bad things won’t happen to us.
We will live happily ever after.
From little stuff that goes wrong to total life disasters, we are gradually stripped of our illusions. Injustice comes in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes. From governmental indignities to incomprehensible tragedies, no one is immune. Sooner or later, we realize the control we were sure we had doesn’t exist. We can hang on to the illusion as long as things go well. It’s amazing how fast illusions dissipate when things turn south.
Money and fame don’t stop disease or death, nor does it prevent accidents or crises to you or those you love. It won’t keep you employed when the company you work for is bought by a bigger one or it goes bankrupt. Shit happens to everyone, though having money can soften the bumps — depending on the bump. Some bumps are a lot bigger, deeper, and more destructive than others.
We are passengers on the bus of life. We aren’t driving. We don’t know what road we’re on or our final destination — except death. After a lifetime of trying to wrestle the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands, I finally got it. The bus is going where it’s going. I might as well enjoy the scenery.
Life is not about where you end up. It’s about the journey. Long or short, that’s what there is. Find the best seat by a window and watch the world roll by.