Fandango’s Provocative Question #203

This is the third time Fandango has posed some variety of this question. I only know this because I knew I’d written about it before. It’s a subject I also find interesting. That was when I realized two out of the four or five times I’ve written about it were for this challenge

We all want to be in control of our lives, some of us more than others. Even though my life has spun out of control more times than I can count, I still want to wrestle with whoever is driving the bus. I want that wheel in my hands. As I approach my 76th birthday, I’ve gleaned this won’t happen. I will plan. The gods will laugh. What will be, will be.

To what degree have you been able to control the course your life has taken?

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, are too old, too slow, or they go bankrupt. People we assume are honest turn out to be thieves. Complications, delays, and bumps in the road are the companions to everything we do. The people we love may not love us in return or we may stop loving them. Kids go their own way; we hope for the best. Nobody’s family is like those perfect TV families we watched while we were growing up.

We cope. It’s not like we have a choice. Cope or croak.

I don’t think we are predestined except for being limited by our abilities and luck. Not being predestined is not the same as having life under control. If I had it under control, I wouldn’t have a pacemaker or a broken spine and Garry and I would have gotten married 15 years earlier.

Love is the one area that can feel predestined. No matter how far you wandered, this would be your person.

Otherwise, our fondest and final fantasy is that we control our lives and know our destiny. We don’t. We urgently want to believe it. After all, that’s what our parents told us. We believed them until we realized they never had their own lives under control, but it’s what they wanted for us.

Between the wish and reality can lie a huge gap.

“Control” is our final illusion. People who have never had their life go off the rails don’t get it. Those of us who one day — in a speeding car, a doctor’s office, a courtroom or the boss’s office at work — discovered you can move from “I’ve got it firmly in my grasp” to ‘WTF!” in a nanosecond, it’s a different tale. I used to think that people who have never had something insane happen over which they had no control — and which changed their life — were lucky. But that may not be true. The shocking and inexplicable stuff that knocks us to our virtual knees can be the crucial pivot point. Those are the open doors through which we can enter a new world. The most interesting and entertaining parts of my life were unplanned and started out as painful and shocking — yet resolved into something extraordinary which I could never have planned.

Life isn’t about control. It’s about slogging your way through the mess and while you are up to your hips in mud, noticing how beautiful are the birds and flowers. Control is what we are sure we have until we don’t. A perfectly controlled life can turn flip over in a split second. Disease, accidents, sudden changes in relationships — seemingly random events that couldn’t possibly happen to you — happen. To you. To yours. It’s the flip side of winning a lottery ticket.

Sometimes you win the bundle – or lose everything.

We all have some control — sometimes — or think we do because nothing has happened to make us realize “control” is a mirage. Ultimately, no one has control. Not winning every battle doesn’t have to be tragic. You can see change as a challenge or a catastrophe — take your pick. Often both are true.

We are passengers on the bus that is life. We aren’t driving. We don’t know what road we’re on or where our final destination lies — except ultimately death. After a lifetime of trying to wrestle the steering wheel out of the driver’s hands, I get it. The bus is going where it’s going. I might as well enjoy the scenery.

Life can be weird. Go with the flow and live in the moment. They are our best tools.

Categories: #FPQ, Anecdote, Life, Provocative Questions, questions, Relationships

Tags: , , , , , ,

29 replies

  1. People often say, looking back it all looked like a grand plan.
    There are people running high tech companies and making millions/billions who were probably quite unremarkable all of their lives. They just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
    But they would tell you they did have a plan and look how smart they are.
    As a runner, I know there are things I can control or plan for. And that there are many things that happen in real time and you have to adjust.
    Life really is a “game of chance”. Think about how most of us met our spouse. A long list of circumstances brought us together and on that particular day we were our good-enough selves to get a 2nd date.


    • There are things you can control, although mostly these things are work or hobby-related. When you are building something or writing something, you have control in that space, with that thing. But that isn’t life. When you are out in The World, anything can happen and usually does.


  2. Wonderfully expressed and profound in the depth and truth of the observations – good post. Well and truthfully answered.


  3. I like that you mentioned “a courtroom” (amongst almost any subject that can go haywire). Most people assume justice happens in legal venues. Sometimes justice occurs. That means it sometimes doesn’t. There can be a wrong decision for or a wrong decision against, even a wrong vacating of the topic altogether. And your attorney might just not show up whereby you lose by default. Further, you might not be able to retain a lawyer in the first place because of money or because everyone finds your case boring or hard, or based on whatever. Another example (not the only one) in my life is that a judge asked me to send my evidence via email the next day when he, so he said, couldn’t hear or see what I was presenting during our actual hearing… which the city legal setup had insisted had to be online (2021 sure there’s a pandemic so why would we presume to have anything make sense in the world right now). When I was sending the evidence, on the next day, I was sometimes getting messages that said the file was too large. Of course, I couldn’t do anything about the fact that I had a video and the computer system couldn’t handle it. Also, the judge didn’t say what time the next day. I realized this on said next day, but there was no way to ask. Therefore (although I had originally thought to myself that I’d do it first thing in the morning because email is email), I decided to assume I’d have a window at the same time our two live meetings had been. However, for who knows what reason or lack of reasoning or diligence or care, the window had been from about ten minutes after the start time until about fifteen before the end time. I had a lot of evidence, and almost none got through. Too bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The law is the law, but justice and the law are not necessarily the same. There are million little ways that you can be brought down — entirely legally — yet entirely wrongly. I think that to me is the scariest part of reality, that you can do everything right and still wind up jailed or bankrupt, or who knows what else.

      Right now, we can’t even find a lawyer we can afford to write out a will for us. I don’t think we could ever afford to protect ourselves in a courtroom.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Marilyn, it is true that none of us can control life. Some of us get more adversity or mountains to climb than others. When I had my sons, I never dreamed they would have 40 operations between them and both suffer from chronic conditions. I would still have had them though, even if I had know. I would not want to be without them. My dad has also had three serious illnesses that have nearly killed him over the past 20 years. He has survived them all to date. None of them were remotely anticipated in any way. We have to take the bad with the good and it helps us appreciate the good even more. An interesting read.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My health deteriorated pretty early and if anyone should be dead, it’s probably me. Yet, here I am. I am a miracle of modern medicine. My granddaughter had 17 surgeries on her foot (she was born with clubfeet) before she was 15. My son was ALSO born with clubfeet as was his father and more on my side of the family. I knew about my first husband, but I had no idea it ran in my mother’s family too. Funny how no one warns you of genetic medical stuff until AFTER it happens. Owen’s father died young, but Garry has been relatively low maintenance, I think I’ve more than made up for it.

      We have no choice about medical problems and for that matter, we never know if the job we’ve had for 30 or more years is going to one day disappear. It happens. You deal with it to the best of your ability. Money can help, but in the end, it only helps with the bills, not the events.

      Anyone who thinks they are in control of their own or anyone else’s life has just been lucky. We think we are in control when life run smoothly. I think life just runs. If it’s smooth, we think we did something. If not, we become abruptly aware that we aren’t controlling anything. Life just IS.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that life just IS. “Money can help, but in the end, it only helps with the bills, not the events.” This is the truest statement I’ve ever read.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you. Up here, we have the Kennedy family. They are VERY rich — yet we’ve watched one after another of the family murdered or killed. Two were assassinated (John and Robert), a couple of them died in accidents (John Jr. and Michael (grandson I think). John Jr. crashed in his own airplane trying to land at the tiny airport on Martha’s Vineyard in a fog without the right controls. We were on the Vineyard when he crashed. It was another shock and I remember thinking that all the money in the world wasn’t saving that family. There are a lot of grandchildren and to no one’s surprise, they seem to have abjured politics – and skiing. And flying. Their money didn’t save them. From a huge family, they were dropped, one at a time.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Excellent writing Marilyn. Your post remined me of Tie a Yellow Ribbon where I stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think most of the really bad bumps in life are just that. Bumps and sometimes, total wreckage. Oh, sure, along the route we all encounter bad people, bad bosses, thieves and scoundrels and more, but most of the things that happen to us are just life doing its thing. I don’t exactly believe in destiny, but I don’t exactly NOT believe in it. I often think we are where we are supposed to be. We can run, but we can’t hide.

      The ONE thing I am sure of is that no one is in control of their life. If that were the case, we’d never get sick and possibly never die.

      If ones life rolls smoothly from birth to death, fortune is with you. Even if it does, it may not be rolling as smoothly for whoever else is in your life. Control is an illusion. It could be our grandest illusion.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Beautifully stated, as usual, Marilyn.
    Always a pleasure to read your posts.

    This one reminds me of the old joke:

    “How do you make God laugh?”
    “Tell Him your plan.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • You don’t even have to TELL him. If you even THINK about it …

      We may not be religious, but we’ve gotten very superstitious about what we say. Like “It can’t get any worse.” Yes, it can and if you say that, it definitely WILL. “What else could go wrong?” is another one. And “From here on, smooth sailing.” Wait a few minutes and watch the weather change, figuratively or literally.

      I think people who believe they are in control of their lives just haven’t had anything go really WRONG. Yet.

      Did you sell the house in Newton? Are you permanently in New Hampshire now? Do you ever come down this way?

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Our areas of control get ever smaller as we get older… maybe that is natural, but I still don’t like it…


    • My woes started when I was very young. I figured I was getting all the bad stuff out of the way but it turns out, life just IS and you try to figure out how to deal with it. I really do believe that “control” is the ultimate illusion. We figure if life is running smoothly, it must be because we’ve got it under control. And we keep believing that until the train derails. Getting older certainly makes it harder to climb out of the wreckage, but a lot of young people get wrecked too.

      Liked by 2 people

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