Here I am in Bath, England on holidays with my wife. This morning I got a call from our son-in-law. Our pregnant daughter has had a fall on her way to work. She has been rushed to hospital and had an emergency Caesarean section. Her baby boy was born 14 weeks premature. Everyone is in shock. This isn’t the way any of us had planned things.
Our other kids and her husband have rallied to the cause and have taken over all the tasks that need to be done. They have got things organised and are keeping in contact with us. We are changing our flights to be there as soon as we can. That’s the thing about life, it throws up the unexpected – events that are unplanned and out of our control. I am here on the other side of the world worried about my daughter and new grandson. And I cannot do a thing about it.
I know that there is a lesson in this for me. Some people are called ‘control freaks’ as though that’s a bad thing. In fact, being in control is a pretty basic human need. Being in control gives us a sense of certainty and safety. Overused though, the need to be in control of everything can have negative consequences. Sometimes we want to control every little detail in every part of our lives. Or we impinge on others by trying to assert our control needs onto other people’s lives.
People generally like to have some measure of control. Imagine driving with no steering and no brakes! Control helps us feel safe and avoid the fearful unknown. I like having control of my own life. I have found that my habit of planning my day, week, month and year keeps me on track to achieve the important things.
But I can’t control everything. I can’t control the weather, the traffic, the financial markets, world politics or even what calls the referee makes when my favourite team is playing. I have no influence over so many things. Yet in the past I have lain awake in the early hours worrying about things over which I have no control.
We have a saying in sport: ‘Control the controllable.’ Is there anything I can do about this situation? If there is then I should take action. Action cures fear. If there is nothing I can do, then I need to find a way to cope, or to detach from it. That doesn’t mean that I am irresponsible. In fact, I need to be response-able, that is able to respond.
I can’t change some things, but I can choose how I respond to them. I can respond to a traffic jam in a calm way, or I can let it get to me. I can come from love or fear. So if there is nothing I can do from England that will help my daughter other than respond with love, stay in contact through phone calls and keep sending my positive thoughts to everyone back home. I feel helpless but I am still able to connect with love and support. ‘Control the controllable’. It’s a great coping mechanism when things are out of your control.
‘At the end of the day, you’re responsible for yourself and your actions and that’s all you can control. So rather than be frustrated with what you can’t control, try to fix the things you can.’ – Kevin Garnett
It’s a wonderful life!
By Brian Fitzpatrick