Illusion of control

My back is so flared up it hurts to move, and as usual I’m stricken with this-is-the-rest-of-my-life anxiety, which I know it isn’t and know I’ve been through before, but the fear is there nonetheless.  Not only does it hurt, which makes me angry and depressed, I feel utterly helpless that I can’t even get to the store on my own and frustrated that I can’t plan anything in advance.

I’ve been  looking forward to a trip to British Columbia with a friend who’s also in recovery–a new city to see, an island retreat with quiet and birds, walks in the woods, good talks over mugs of tea with someone who understands alcoholism.  Last night I had to email her and say it’s in limbo.  This morning I called to cancel my B&B reservation on the island.  I thought it was a 10-day cancellation period, but the very unhappy woman I talked to said, no, two weeks, and it was such a big chunk of time…she’d have to think about what to do…so I may be out money for that, as well as all the magic miles I used up getting the airline ticket that can’t be cancelled.  Arrrgghh.

These little slaps in the face the gods send to remind you you’re not in control of things…

And it’s all such small stuff compared to what others are going through:  the massive flight from Syria to refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan; people in ‘temporary’ shelters in Haiti drowned and electrocuted (!) in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac, which now has turned into a hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast; the undocumented immigrant children being deported without their parents or other relatives by ‘our’ stunningly inhumane and aptly named I.C.E.  (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

I’ve wondered about that name.  It used to be Immigration and Naturalization Service–INS.  After 9/11, INS was absorbed into the new Department of Homeland Security (ugh ugh ugh!  the word “homeland” gives me the creeps) and renamed Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Obviously, they were aware the acronym was ICE.  Can’t you see them sitting around chortling?  That’ll give the sonofabitches something to think about! 

Thinking of something I just read in The Cloister Walk:

….How can we read Psalm 137, one of the most troubling of the psalms and also one of the most beautiful?   The ultimate song of exile, it begins:  “By the waters of Babylon/there we sat and wept,/remembering Zion.”

….If the psalm doesn’t offer an answer, it allows us to dwell on the question….it asks us to acknowledge that being uprooted and forced into servitude is not an experience alien to our “civilized” world….When one reads the psalm with this in mind, the closing verse, containing an image of unspeakable violence against Israel’s Babylonian captors, comes as no surprise:  “O Babylon, destroyer, / he is happy who repays you the ills you brought on us. / He shall seize and shall dash / your children on the rock!” (vv. 8-9).

These lines are the fruit of human cruelty; they let us know the depth of the damage we do when we enslave other people, when we blithely consume the cheap products of cheap labor.  But what does it mean to find  such an image in a book of prayer, a hymnbook of “praises”?  The psalms are unrelenting in their realism about the human psyche. They ask us to consider our true situation, and to pray over it. They ask us to be honest about ourselves and admit that we, too,  harbor the capacity for vengeance.  This psalm functions as a cautionary tale: such a desire, left unchecked, whether buried under “niceness” or violently acted out, can lead to a bitterness so consuming that even the innocent are not spared.  (Norris, pp. 103-104)

Certainly the innocent are not spared very many places in the world these days.

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.  —James 2:13


The loss of control over your life is deeply disturbing, only how much control do we really have anyway?  This picture has been on my bathroom wall for years, but sometimes I forget the message:

“If you hold on to the handle, she said, it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you.”–Brian Andreas

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2 Responses to Illusion of control

  1. What a beautiful post, thank you. Control is an illusion, gosh, isn’t that the truth. I seem to grasp the concept, then each day I have to re-learn the lesson. Just let go and let be….

    I’m sorry to hear about your back pain and the resulting cancelled plans. I hope you feel better very soon.

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