Do You Think You Have Control of Your Life?

Do You Think You Have Control of Your Life?
Control of Your Life
Women looking out at Mount Buffalo, c. 1900 – 1930. Photo by Alice Manfield (1878-1962?) via State Library Victoria

Do you have control of your life? Most people would immediately say yes, but few bother to think about how. Or if in fact they do.

Following on from Mother’s day, I’ve been musing about my mother. I admit I am probably more fond of her now that she’s dead than when she wasn’t.

We butted heads most of my life, but I think our main difference was that she was a backward thinker, while I am a forward thinker.

Backward Thinking

I don’t mean to insult her intelligence by calling her a backward thinker. What I mean that she was more or less trapped by the effect past events had on her.

And I don’t mean that in a bad way – there’s no denying she had a hard life. She was a child during the Great Depression and survived WWII and the bombing of London when so many didn’t. You could call it a miracle she survived at all.

But she thought those events made her who she was, and there was no changing that.

Forward Thinking

I, on the other hand, think forwards.

I also had a difficult past, and with the day to day effects of kidney failure including nutritional imbalances and disturbed sleep, I just don’t remember much of the time I was ill. Or the years leading up to it.

And it still freaks me out a bit when people I don’t remember come up and talk to me as if I’m a long lost friend.

Anyway, without those long-term memories, I just don’t have the capacity to dwell in the past. I think about what I want to do in the future, plot my course and move full steam ahead until I get there. Or change my mind about my destination. Which happens more often that I’d like.

Why Your Direction Matters

In many day-to-day ways, it doesn’t really matter in the slightest.

Except, maybe, when you stack your dishwasher with an efficient empying strategy in mind. Or park your car closer to the Ikea entrance or exit.

But in the larger, overall arc of your life it matters a great deal.

Like when you face the tragedy of your murdered child. Do you lock yourself into a time before the death, refusing yourself permission to finish grieving and move on? Or do you grieve for a time, then focus your love and affection on your husband and surving children? Do you maybe turn your anger and grief towards improving the services available to the countless bereaved families that are bound follow you?

I know that sounds harsh, but I feel so sad for the people I see outside court rooms, swearing to the ever-present media that the justice system has failed them, and that they will NEVER recover.

Nor will they if that’s what they keep telling themselves.

The Power of Choice

But you have a choice.

A while back, I read some book or other, which suggested dedicating your suffering to the benefit of others. And this is a beautiful gift that helps you get throught hard times:

  • When I had to put my cancer ridden father into residential care, I dedicated my suffering for the benefit of his room mate and family.
  • Before I knew what I was sick with, I dedicated my suffering to the benefit of other grey faced train commuters.
  • When it was time to put my dementia suffering mother into care, I dedicated my suffering to other families with dementia parents.

It doesn’t change the amount you suffer, and it may or may not benefit those you dedicate it to, but it gives your suffering purpose. And that gives you the strength to keep moving forwards in the face of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of daily life.

It’s all a matter of perspective and choice.


Take a moment to think about which way you’re facing. Do you really have control of your life?

Are you facing forwards because you believe you can become the person you’ll need to be to overcome the challenges you’ll be facing?

Or are you facing backwards, a pinball in the machine of life, propelled from one event to another with no control?

The choice is yours to make.

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