Back at school one of my daughter’s friends arrives with a striking new appearance.
Teacher- ”Liv your hair is silver!”
Liv – ”I know, I dyed it myself.”
The nonchalance made me laugh out loud. Pulled up for a flagrant flouting of the school rules, in that momentary exchange between pupil and teacher, both are aware that the stable door is swinging open and the horse, long since gone.
Mostly it’s best to let go of what we can’t control. So why are we so terrible at doing it?
Most of us like to have some sense of control over what happens in our lives, but knowing the limit of where our influence begins and ends is critical to preserving sanity.
Part of the difficulty comes from confusing what constitutes control over our own lives with that which is actually control over other people’s.
Mostly we complain about our lack of control because we are trying to influence things which have nothing to do with us. Sometimes it’s the way that other people see us. It might be how others are behaving towards us, and we grasp for control when we get a response we didn’t want or plan for.
Life would be so much easier if other people would just behave the way we expect them to.
The Serenity Prayer, so popular in addiction recovery, describes so well the danger of confusing that which we can influence with that which we cannot.
“God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Whether you have a faith or not the sentiment is accurate. Acceptance, courage, and wisdom. That’s how you control your life.
In a relationship feeling undervalued, overlooked and constantly hurting I wasted time wondering how on earth I could convince her that her behaviour was unreasonable and unfair. I wanted her to be more like my idea of her rather than how she actually was.
There is no control in this scenario, only a gradual increase in the realisation that nothing is the way that I want it and that, by standing immobile, I am complicit in my own misery.
It is in days like these which neediness, pleading, bargaining and desperation are employed. But if pathetic coercion and an empty threat is your most powerful weapon then you really have no weapon at all.
If you want to control your life you need first to accept that the world is as it is.
If that weren’t hard enough the next step, having the courage to change yourself in the ways that are best for you, is, at times, downright painful.
What results though is a true sense of empowerment. It might be a long time coming but it’s a genuine joy when it does.
Our span of control is tiny. But that isn’t as disastrous as you might think.
Released from the responsibility to control things which are beyond us we can focus instead on that which we can really influence in ways which have a direct impact on our own happiness and sense of wellbeing.
As autumn strengthens its grip the dews have been heavy. The lengthening damp grass in the garden has, for some reason, put Daisy off wandering about and going for her bedtime constitutional. No amount of coaxing with bits of cheese or half shouted whispers in the dead of night would convince her away from lying on the decking refusing to move. When I gave up trying and instead spent a couple of hours cutting the grass yesterday she trotted happily at bedtime into the undergrowth for a wee.
It’s so much easier to change my own behaviour than someone else. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before.