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.

7 thoughts on “The Illusion of Control

  1. You are far from alone. My catch-phrase for the last two months has been “My Karma is broken.” A friend went so far as to suggest I had (I will not fill in the details) been a terrible human in a past life. I struggled to disagree in that moment. Stepping away from other’s anger (so often propagated to epidemic levels on social media) is necessary for me as well. Forrest fires are a natural part of renewal for some, I only get burnt.

    The smoke will clear. The words will come back. I have no doubt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy, I’m so sorry to hear someone–a “friend”!–told you, essentially, that you must have done something to deserve any bad thing happening to you. I’m beginning to see (yes, a bit slow on the uptake) that social media is a breeding ground for negativity and mob mentality. Stepping away has helped me tremendously, as has returning to the real-life relationships that feed my soul, make me laugh and remind me of the real reasons I’m here and my purpose in the world. Thank you for your comments and positive vibes. I’m tripling them and sending them right back to you, with a bit of aloe to help with any burns. Hugs! 😉


  2. Very powerful post. I have the gift of knowing you personally and I can tell you that you absolutely make a difference. Your devotion to WFWA makes a difference to everyone in our community on the macro and micro levels. Your wise words of wisdom that you share here with the world and in private with your friends, they make a difference. Your generosity to share the raw emotions you mention here, your bravery in saying what many of us feel but are afraid to voice in public. These all make a difference each and every day.

    I know you will find your way back to the writing when there’s headspace. And this, this sums up so much of how I’ve been feeling lately: “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.” These seem to slip away from our grasp at times but I am finding they find their way back to us eventually in one form or another.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cerrissa, I can’t deny that watching the Dems take over the floor today was heartwarming. I feel like my voice is being heard, and the folks who can make a difference are doing their darndest to make one! Sunshine, encouraging words from good friends and strangers, and a bit of rest are definitely helping. I won’t be down for long, and I hope you aren’t either. Even when we feel alone, we must remember we’re not, and reach out to those who know our hearts. They will always have love wrapped up and ready to give us, like a healing gift. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. First of all – I am so sorry for the loss of your pet. I used to always say they are not people in little furrry suits, but I’ve come to know different, so my heart goes out to you. When I need an emotional, mental, spiritual reset, I try to let go of the technology and the writing for ‘them” and be outside as much as possible. The woods (or water) can put everything in perspective. Cooking simply, journaling, and creating something with my hands, basically making my world smaller for a while helps. The world does feel out of control right now, but I have faith that there are more good people than bad. I remember feeling some of this prior to Obama being elected the first time and then just being so blown away that our country elected him. I’m rambling at this point, but all I wanted to say is – hang in there, keep plugging away, faking it until you make it is underrated. You’re on my heart today and I’m grateful for your honesty and how bravely you share your soul.


    • Cara Sue, you worded it perfectly: “making my world smaller for a while” and working with my hands does make things so much better. Things like gardening and baking bring me joy, reminding me of the power of my own hands to create and nurture others. I remember the feeling you describe about right before Obama was elected the first time–I had it too. Sometimes the universe hands us the proof we need of goodness in the world when we need it most and expect it least. Thank you for your virtual hug and confirmation that we’re not as alone as we sometimes feel, that there are still good and loving souls everywhere.


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