You may not control life's circumstances, but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them. -Atul Gawande, Being Mortal
A long trip down the road of life later, I have finally learned that I can’t really control anything. Yup, nothing. Not what happens to me and, definitely not other people in any way, shape or form. I can put suggestions out there into the Universe, but I can’t fix anyone. I can work towards a goal, but nine times out of ten that goal is not going to look like what I thought it would when I started. All I can control is my own behavior in response to a situation.
Being an Alexander Technique teacher has made me a student of human nature, as well as human physicality. It’s been really interested to watch people’s control responses (including my own) to the COVID-19 pandemic. The first one, as we are all acutely aware, was the great toilet paper run. The 1920s stock market crash caused a run on the banks, COVID-19 cleared the shelves of TP at the supermarket. Social Distancing rules have been varied in success throughout the US. Now, wearing masks (or not) is entering the picture. People’s responses to attempted government control are fascinating. I’ve been observing my own reaction to people not following rules that I believe are “right.” I have to keep reminding myself that I can’t control or fix other people, no matter how much I may want to convince them to do their part to flatten the curve.
Dave and I are a fairly aware couple; we already know that trying to control each other is a bad idea. When that happens, someone is really hurting. The empathic response is to ask questions and find out why. We’ve both been acutely aware of being present to each other’s needs so we don’t kill one another in 24-hour confinement. Thankfully, we are finding the need to control can be positively expressed in creativity.
Dave has been building paths out in our wooded lot. This started last year with building steps down a steep hillside behind my vegetable garden, and then continued with re-outlining some existing paths down in the woods with some newly downed trees and branches.
We are all trying to muddle through this mess. Just like the mud down in the woods, it’s thick, we can’t see through it, and we don’t know what’s under there yet. No one can fix this.
All we can do is stay at home, follow the rules as best we can, and remember that we love each other.
(This exercise is best done with another person, but if you are living alone right now, you can toss the ball in the air and then follow the directions.)
Find a soft, lightweight ball or soft object that fits in your hand. A dog toy or a beanbag will do if you can’t find a tennis ball. Use your creativity!
With a partner (if possible,) play catch for a bit. Notice your response to the ball coming towards you. Do you tense up? Do you find yourself reaching for the ball? Are you only seeing the ball and nothing else?
Now, make a conscious decision not to catch the ball. Just let it land on the ground as it goes past your hand. How easy or hard is that for you? Let go of the need to catch the ball. See it go by you.
Imagine that the ball is a situation you can’t control. You don’t have to catch it. Just let it go.
Then, imagine that the ball IS something you can manage. On this toss, bring your hand up, and let the ball land in your hand. How is that different from your original catch?