control


IF

In the evenings, I pause in my chores to take the cat on a supervised trip into the back yard. She’s proven time and again she can’t be trusted not to jump over the wall and go walkabout—which, I suspect, is how she got lost from her previous owners. She does so love the back yard. She’s quite insistent on going out, fussing and whining until I relent.

I always relent, because my dirty little secret is that I go out there as much for myself as her. Min makes a great excuse. I love to feel the wind in my face, listen to the birds, watch the gloaming slowly overtake the leaves of trees and plants, golden and syrup-rich. I love the sense of presence out there. It’s serene, one of the few things in my life right now that fills me up rather than takes away.

So as I sat in my serene place last night, I thought—mostly in a peaceful way—about letting go of so many layers of things. Letting go of fears, letting go of needless guilt and worry, of giving it up to the inexorable ebb and flow of the universe. Not give up on life, you understand. Still in there, still fighting the good fight, just reconciling myself to the fact that the universe will always have its way in the end, no matter what I or anyone else does. What I needed, what I need, is to give up the illusion of control, to make peace with that.

We’re none of us helpless flotsam in the grand old river of the universe. I truly believe things travel along with us, keeping us in the free-flowing stream as long as possible, as much as possible. Little markers of hope and fellow-feeling, sometimes larger things that buffer and stand guard. At times, the smallest things can bring the largest upwelling of hope, allowing us to float free. I don’t know what these things are, where they come from, wouldn’t care to define them in narrow human terms, but they are there as long as we allow them to be. We can’t be protected forever. Nothing can be. Sometimes we’re going to smash into rocks, sometimes we’re going to dip below the surface. Sometimes, when the time has come, we’re going to drown. It’s the nature of the journey. It’s easy to be philosophical about all this when I’m in my serene place. Difficult when I’m having trouble treading water.

From the perspective of my usual chair last night I tried to think of some better way of treading water. I wondered if, along with the illusion of control, I also had an illusion of receiving help along the way. I looked at a patch of ground near the bird bath where a few days ago I’d moved a brick that had been overgrown with moss. I saw a little face, tilted to the side, peering back at me from the fringe of the moss, just before the precipice where the brick had nestled. One little arm was raised as if she swam hard against the pushing tide of moss. I was far enough away to wonder if she might be an optical illusion, a trompe l’oeil composed of bits of leaf matter, blossoms, and hope.

I got up and drew close. There was a face, and a tiny arm, a small ceramic figurine lodged into the ground. When I pulled her out I saw she was a little fairy maiden, sitting on a leaf, resting one hand on a thimble while the other, the one she’d been swimming with, rested under her chin. I could see from her back that she’d broken off some larger piece. She had quite an Alice in Wonderland quality to her face, but I don’t recall ever owning a piece of garden ceramic with such a whimsical girl. I’d swear she hadn’t been there when I moved the brick. My hand was right there two days ago, but I didn’t remember seeing her. Clearly, she’d nestled amongst the moss a while because she was partly embedded in the soil, leaving a hollow when I pulled her free. The moss had surrounded her as it had the brick. Perhaps I’d been too distracted at the time and hadn’t noticed her, or…

I looked up at the faces hanging on the garden wall. Flora and Ivy smiled serenely back at me. Green Man looked grumpy, as always, but I wouldn’t absolutely swear there wasn’t a twinkle in his eyes. Probably the gloaming. Magic always happen in the heavy, rich light of twilight.

This post was originally written in July of 2011 when I was struggling with being the sole caregiver for my 90-something mother. I am no longer a caregiver, but the idea that something will be there for us when we need it most remains a great comfort to me.

Random quote of the day:

“You are in control of your life. Don’t ever forget that. You are what you are because of the conscious and subconscious choices you have made.”

—Barbara Hall, A Summons to New Orleans

I don’t usually inject my own opinion into the quotes, preferring to let people make up their own minds about things. But this quote strikes me as particularly ironic in regards to my own life. You see, the lesson I have been learning, constantly reinforced over recent months and years, is that control is an illusion that we humans comfort ourselves with. I do believe we have free will, but often that amounts to how we react to the uncontrollable forces that swirl around us. You may, of course, have another opinion—such is the nature of opinions. And I have no control over that.

 control4WP@@@

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I’ve been coming to terms with my own physical limitations for the last week. I blew my knee out over the weekend and have had a hard time getting around. I had to borrow my mother’s spare walker, which was a huge blow to my ego, especially bringing it to work. I hate the melodrama of it—but it works better and causes me less pain than using a cane. The knee is progressively getting better. I’m hopeful that if I keep off my feet as much as possible this weekend I can do without the walker on Monday. Still, it feels like a ghostly voice whispering in my ear, “You are getting old.”

The truth is, I’ve been dealing with these physical limitations for awhile now. I’ve known for over a year that I need surgery in both knees. I’ve got no cartilage left at all. But I’ve been limping along because . . . who will take care of Mom when I’m laid up?

The recovery is actually a lot quicker than I thought it would be. My doctor says most people are walking up stairs after a couple of weeks. And I want to be able to walk again! This last week has shown me that the time for procrastination is done. Since there’s no one in the family to help me, I’m just going to have to scrape up the money to hire someone. Fortunately, Mom is still relatively high function. We’re talking about someone to run errands, cook meals, keep her on track with the meds and therapies, take her to doctor’s appointments. I’ve got an ambulance company that can take her to and from dialysis. I just have to let go of my protective need to take care of everything myself.

That, of course, is the hardest thing of all to do.

Random quote of the day:

“Money is how people with no talent keep score. Control is how others with no money keep score.”

—Michael S. Hart, A Brief History of the Internet

(Thanks to mount_oregano for this quote.)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

1. I finally got around to watching the taped season finale of Castle and the fourth season premiere. This is what I hate about episodic TV and why I stopped watching it: every season, no matter how dramatic or world-changing the finale, by the end of the premiere episode everything has been reset to square one. There’s no regard for character growth, the hard left turns in the script give you whiplash, but everything goes back to the way things have always been. Even on Castle, which is a better written show than most episodic TV. Yeah, there are hints that things will continue in a slightly altered vein, but the premiere really had to do some unlikely contortions to achieve their reset.

2. We’ve got summer weather this October, as often happens in L.A. in October. I wore short sleeves today, forgetting the fall/stress rash on my forearm which is now on display for all to see. Oh well. It had mostly simmered down so it isn’t too humiliating. Driving back from taking Mom to the clinic, everything was sunny and bright until I got to Santa Monica. Then the fog seeped down the highway and I wished that I’d brought my sweater.

3. Driving to the clinic, my mother and I discussed the weird perception of waking up and not knowing where you are, thinking maybe you’re in some place you lived in two or three moves ago, or whatever. These days that sensation has gone a step further for Mom: she wakes up and although she knows where everything is and everything looks the same, the neighborhood is familiar, she feels as if the house isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Somehow it’s moved, she knows not where. I said, “Maybe we’ve slipped into an alternate reality and you’re the only one who realizes it.” She laughed. “Maybe so.”

4. I sometimes have moments of hope these days—and that scares me. So much is beyond my control. I can concentrate only on the here and now. I have to let go of the rest. Whenever I get caught up in anger or frustration or trying to will my will in situations where my will has no effect, I tell myself, “You haven’t got time for this. Let it go. Save your energy for fights you can win.” This is a very difficult lesson to learn, not just for me, but it’s one the Universe has been trying to teach me for many long years: live this moment, and this moment, and this moment, and this . . .

5. My creative life is stretching taut over my bones, but it’s swimming in my blood. I thought it was dead for a time, but it isn’t dead. It is not dead.

In the evenings, I pause in my chores to take the cat on a supervised trip into the back yard. She’s proven time and again she can’t be trusted not to jump over the wall and go walkabouts—which, we suspect, is how she got lost from her previous owners. She does so love the back yard. She’s quite insistent on going out there, fussing and whining until I relent.

I always relent, because my dirty little secret is that I go out there as much for myself as her. Min makes a great excuse. I love to to feel the wind in my face, listen to the birds, watch the gloaming slowly overtake the leaves of trees and plants, golden and syrup-rich. It’s serene, one of the few things in my life right now that fills me up rather than takes away.

So as I sat in my serene place last night, I thought—mostly in a peaceful way—about letting go of so many layers of things. Letting go of fears, letting go of needless guilt and worry, of giving it up to the inexorable ebb and flow of the universe. Not give up on life, you understand. Still in there, still fighting the good fight, just reconciling myself to the fact that the universe will always have its way in the end, no matter what I or anyone else does. What I needed, what I need, is to give up the illusion of control, to make peace with that.

We’re none of us helpless flotsam in the grand old river of the universe. I truly believe things travel along with us, keeping us in the free-flowing stream as long as possible, as much as possible. Little markers of hope and fellow-feeling, sometimes larger things that buffer and stand guard. At times, the smallest things can bring the largest upwelling of hope, allowing us to float free. I don’t know what these things are, where they come from, wouldn’t care to define them in narrow human terms, but they are there as long as we allow them to be. We can’t be protected forever. Nothing can be. Sometimes we’re going to smash into rocks, sometimes we’re going to dip below the surface. Sometimes, when the time has come, we’re going to drown. It’s the nature of the journey. It’s easy to be philosophical about all this when I’m in my serene place. Difficult when I’m having trouble treading water.

From the perspective of my usual chair last night I tried to think of some better way of treading water. I wondered if, along with the illusion of control, I also had an illusion of receiving help along the way. I looked at a patch of ground near the bird bath where a few days ago I’d moved a brick that had been overgrown with moss. I saw a little face, tilted to the side, peering back at me from the fringe of the moss, just before the precipice where the brick had nestled. One little arm was raised as if she swam hard against the pushing tide of moss. I was far enough away to wonder if she might be an optical illusion, a trompe l’oeil composed of bits of leaf matter, blossoms, and hope.

I got up and drew close. There was a face, and a tiny arm, a small ceramic figurine lodged into the ground. When I pulled her out I saw she was a little fairy maiden, sitting on a leaf, resting one elbow on a thimble while the other, the one she’d been swimming with, rested on air where she’d broken off something. She had quite an Alice in Wonderland quality to her face, but I don’t recall ever owning a piece of garden ceramic with such a whimsical girl. I’d swear she hadn’t been there when I moved the brick. My hand was right there two days ago, but I didn’t remember seeing her. Clearly, she’d nestled amongst the moss a while because she was partly embedded in the soil, leaving a hollow when I pulled her free. The moss had surrounded her as it had the brick. Perhaps I’d been too distracted at the time and hadn’t noticed her, or…

I looked up at the faces hanging on the garden wall. Flora and Ivy smiled serenely back at me. Green Man looked grumpy, as always, but I wouldn’t absolutely swear there wasn’t a twinkle in his eyes. Probably the gloaming. Magic things always happen in the heavy, rich light of twilight.