Grasping for Control, Again
In Accepting the Unexpected, I step away from writing about travel to comment on the bigger journey of life. While the topics may vary, the central theme is always the same: living life means learning to deal with the unexpected.
It hasn’t been an easy transition for our family since making the seemingly sudden decision to move from Texas to Indiana.
If I’m being honest with myself, making the decision to pick up our lives and move back across the country to be closer to family and our roots was partially driven by the need for control. We were deciding to move. After four moves that were entirely driven by career changes, we were deciding where we moved to and making the location determine the job search. We exhausted ourselves doing all of the moving preparation and work, albeit with the necessary help of my mom and available friends. While we were trusting that God would continue to guide us through our transition, including the answered prayer of a job that would help us to justify such a huge life change, just making a drastic decision allowed us to finally feel like we were in control.
Of course, that was before we decided to go ahead with our vacation plans. That was before we tried to enjoy time together as a family while emotionally falling apart at the seams. That was before we encountered one mishap after another on our not-so-carefully-planned vacation.
We thought we had gained control of our situation by making a single life-changing decision. It turns out that there were still far too many things clearly out of our control.
As human beings, we crave some degree of control. Some of us are more controlling than others, but most would agree that control gives us a sense of safety and comfort.
And control has been hard to come by over the last two years.
A global pandemic forced our close family unit to spend far too much time together. As we approached the start of the 2020-2021 school year, we realized that there was little we could do to control the actions of others. We couldn’t stop friends and coworkers and students from spending time in large gatherings that could get them sick and in turn, get us sick. We couldn’t control how other people wore their masks and whether they wore them in public. We couldn’t control how other people responded to a maddening election cycle made all the more contentious by pandemic fatigue that plagued even the most vigilant among us.
Then we couldn’t control a life-changing job loss. I couldn’t control the reactions of others and I couldn’t control all the ways that my children would be impacted. While I could control where I sent my resumes and what was on them, I couldn’t control how they would be read and received by potential employers. While I thought I could control the trajectory of my career by leaving education behind me, I couldn’t control the nagging desire to get back into the classroom and do what I was created to do.
I could trust that God would get us to the end of a very long and dark tunnel, but I couldn’t control most of the obstacles in the way. So I searched for the things I could control. My husband and I made a decision. We picked the location. I sent the resumes. We packed the boxes. We broke our children’s hearts and faced the biggest challenge of our marriage, to date. We took the giant leap of faith that a new job and a cross-country move takes, and I prayed that at some point the boat would stop rocking.
Once we were in Indiana, we all found different ways to control our situation. My husband worked tirelessly for his family by unpacking the vast majority of our stuff by himself, finding time between lunch breaks and after picking up the kids from school while waiting for me to come home much later than we were used to me ever coming home before. I obsessively started painting half of the rooms in our house, determined to make each room feel like our home before I unpacked the belongings that would go into each room. Our daughter became consumed by the plans that she had made for her bedroom, finally allowed to reinvent her pre-teen surroundings to reflect her and not her mother’s version of what a little girl’s room should look like. And our son got sucked into the Fortnight universe, the video game his prized connection to friends he could no longer see in person.
But the reality for all of us is that the only thing that we’ve been able to control has been our decisions. There has still been so much out of our control over the last four months. We couldn’t control the mishap with the mortgage company that postponed our closing. We couldn’t control when our stuff would arrive. We couldn’t control the spotty internet options that occasionally made work difficult for my husband and made all of our lives difficult when our son’s online connection to his friends was unexpectedly cut off. We couldn’t control finally coming down with fall colds even though all of us have been wearing masks indoors.
And while I know that humans ultimately don’t have control, that it is something that will always be completely out of our grasp, there are things that I can do. I’m looking forward to a fall break and the ability to paint rooms and finish unpacking our house. We’re getting a handle on our calendar and making sure that our kids have the opportunity to meet other people through different activities while fighting the urge to do too much too soon. We’re enjoying time with old friends and family members who now live close enough for more frequent visits. And I made the huge decision to leave one job in the middle of a semester for another position that will be better for me and our family.
So while I can’t control the external factors that will always threaten to throw us off balance, we are looking for the things that we can control and praying for the strength to handle the challenges that we can’t.
Right now, that’s the best that we can do.
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