The Illusion of Control


We all need to feel we’re in control. Whether in business or personal life, regardless of how easygoing your personality, it’s an intrinsic human need and we chase it every day. While my business and home lives are often out of step–one is calm while the other is running at full-tilt—eventually there is balance, if only for a little while.

I never realized how much I needed this feeling that I have some kind of control over at least one area of my life until this past week. First we lost Bailey, our family pet for the last eight years. Then emails began arriving reminding me that my baby was about to graduate middle school and head for high school. It’s the end of the academic year, which means final exams and wonky schedules. All these events came together like a perfect storm, throwing my home life routine out the window. So I juggled to keep up there while throwing my energy into my work. I’d write, edit and manage upcoming programs for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, of which I am a board member.

But the words wouldn’t come and the more I tried to force them, the more they resisted, so I gave up on the writing for a few days. Editing proved to be equally frustrating as I went in circles around a plot issue that wouldn’t be tamed from any angle. And then the news of Orlando hit, and there was nothing but anger, blame, nastiness and despair everywhere. I pulled back from technology for a couple of days, trying to regroup and find my lost mojo.

When I sat down to think about why I was struggling so much, it occurred to me that my whole life, nay the world, felt as if it were suddenly beyond my control. Everything was in flux; I had nothing upon which I could rely anymore. I felt helpless, like all my efforts, no matter how large or small, were meaningless. The feeling had begun to eat into my psyche and my daily life, and I found it hard to find a reason to leave my house.

I reached out to a few friends and was surprised to find they were feeling the exact same way. Sure, their reasons were different. But they all complained of feeling on edge, snippy and out of patience, even with those they cared about.  That underscored for me the illusion of order and control we impose on our own small lives and humanity at large. We need to know we’re making progress, making things better, making a difference.

Yes, the world can be a scary, ugly and dangerous place. But when we’re struck repeatedly with reminders, and multiple efforts to change the pattern fail, the only thing we’re left to count on is more fear, ugliness and danger. I’m convinced this is why I can’t write, edit or focus. I’m sure it’s why I feel so uprooted. None of the things I was taught to believe in are visible or tangible anymore, and I don’t know how to live in this unfamiliar world. Nothing I do seems to make a difference.

I need some control back. I need to feel I can rely on certain truths–the goodness of people, the power of love and the sanctity of The Golden Rule. Otherwise, I need someone to send me the new laws of this dystopian society I’ve fallen into and, hopefully, some clue how navigate it, to find some control within it.

Until then, I’ll read to feed my soul. I’ll volunteer to help those I can. I’ll smile at everyone, even if it makes me feel like a fraud. I’ll go through the motions of trying to make a difference, in myself and my surroundings. With any luck, I’ll be able to fake it ’til I make it.