What we can and cannot controlFeb 04, 2023
Sometimes it takes a jolt to help us understand what we can and cannot control. As usual, I had to learn the hard way.
The morning was crisp and very cold, but the predicted snow wouldn’t arrive for another 4 hours. From my experience with winter in Colorado, I knew there would be plenty of time to get to the store to pick up a few items. I told myself this was my last chance for a couple of days and I needed cat litter.
The closest store is only 3 miles to the north, so I bundled up, scraped the ice from the windshield and set off on the highway. There was very little traffic and I made good time. As I neared my destination, I could see cars in the parking lot, so I was reassured that it was open, even though I’d been getting notices all morning of closed offices.
As I put my foot on the brakes to slow down from highway speed for the turn, the car began to slide. I had zero traction. Pumping the brakes did no good - the car was not responding at all! I slid out of control. Next thing I knew, I had hit the curb and landed in the ditch.
Having no control is terrifying.
Fortunately, I was unharmed and the tow truck arrived reasonably quickly. While waiting in the warm store, I bought that cat litter. I was away from home for only two hours and the cats didn’t even wake up from their morning siesta to greet me.
How did this happen?
Looking back, there were signs everywhere that the entire mission was a very bad idea. Ice on the windshield? That same slickness would also be on the road. No traffic? The smart ones are staying home. Closed offices? There’s a reason.
I had paid attention to the wrong thing. Driving in Colorado winter was old hat for me; I can handle cold. Except I was in Arkansas - a completely different kind of winter. My ability to handle the cold is irrelevant, the hazard here is ice, not snow. Operating on my knowledge of weather from a completely different climate, I had ignored the signals obvious to my neighbors.
Lying awake that night, I replayed the moment of impact, imagining all the things I could have done differently. Why didn’t I…? I could have… And while waiting to hear from the car repair folks on how bad the damage is, terrible possibilities arise. What if…? How long…?
Then, I stopped myself from spending any more time in the land of dread. The outcome of this accident is also out of my control.
So, what can we control?
Where we focus our attention.
What meaning we assign to what happens.
What actions we can take next.
Beyond that, it’s out of our hands.
So, I now choose to focus my attention on how lucky I am to walk away uninjured. I’m grateful there was a tow truck nearby and that I made it back home so quickly. I’m thankful that with the continuing bad weather, I now have plenty of time at home to write and crochet and create.
The meaning I’m making is that this experience is helping me to learn to trust and to pay attention to the signals put before me. I’m more curious about what surprise blessing will befall me rather than regurgitating fear and self-recrimination.
And the actions I’m taking are to do my part in the claims process, to ask for help when I need it, and to trust, trust, trust that in the big picture, things will turn out for my highest good.
Undoubtedly, had I been more diligent on the three things I could control on that morning, I would have not left the house at all. My car would be intact and tomorrow I would drive to the store on the dry road to pick up cat litter.
But look at all the lessons I might have missed!