The Illusion of Control
As I’m writing it’s 3:30 am. I was awakened by a rustle and a growl outside our bedroom window. I actually stayed still for a minute thinking it might have been my husband, who was snoring softly, but it just felt like something else. When I opened the curtain to look, a fox trotted past. Stopped and looked back. Disappeared.
Recently, on hour 9 of an 8 hour drive, whilst headed home from a wonderful, powerful weekend with my Hermetics circle where we wove ourselves deeply into the Death mysteries, I had a moment.
I was passing a car on the Interstate, an easy thing because there were 2 lanes going in the same direction and there was very little traffic. The car was going a few miles an hour under the posted speed limit. Apparently, however, I was passing too slowly for some other drivers and as I can came up beside the car I was passing, another car zoomed up behind it and a giant Cadillac SUV came up behind me. These 2 cars were maybe 4’ off of the bumpers of both the car I was passing and my car. I thought the SUV might rear end me.
I felt like I was being hunted. As if these people were trying to kill me intentionally. Certainly they didn’t care if I died and/or did’t consider that they might die, too. Maybe they were suicidal. I went straight into judgement and the desire to protect every single other driver on I-85 from these fools.
I was pissed. American pissed. I slowed down to the speed of the car I was beside and held there. I was in control of how fast everyone was going. So there!
The foxes have taken over our neighborhood. Jennie, one of my neighbors, says there were 9 kits this year. Nine. That means 11 foxes trying to eat in our little area, about 12 blocks square, hemmed in by water and highway. The squirrel population has suffered, which is probably a good thing given that we live in a pecan orchard, but the foxes are starting to go after the cats now, and we have a lot of cats around here.
I’ve never heard a fox snarl before. They frequently make a sound, something shocking if you’ve not heard it before, like a hoarse, drunk, football fan pretending to be a crow. But this was not that. It was a growl of a sort. A hunting sound. One of a predator going after prey. Pure aggression. It woke me from a sound sleep.
I suppose that’s what happened on the way home, too, I reacted to pure aggression. By trying to control it. Oh. Damn.
When I was ‘controlling’ that speed situation the other day I was almost involved in a high-speed crash. The car coming up behind the car in the slow lane suddenly swerved toward me, would have crashed into my car if I hadn’t in turn swerved—all of this with a huge, gold SUV so close on my bumper that I couldn’t see but the very top of the grill. I swerved, almost hit the concrete barrier on my left, the car jumped into my lane, the SUV managed to brake hard enough not to hit me, and I woke up.
It really was an awakening. One about how far I still have to go. About how, when I actually should be afraid I can go into Warrior mode rather than doing the sensible thing, speeding up or slowing down, getting out of the way. I’ve always hated getting out of the way. Honestly I believe that quality kept me alive through the first 30 years of my life. Now though, I need to be really intentional about it, to feel it and not let it rule me. Imagine a cat fighting a fox. Laughable.
You know what the swerve is? There is no such thing as control, there is only the illusion of control. This is, I suspect, the reason why we struggle so hard to maintain and to regain control when we feel that we have lost it–truly, we are never in control of anything outside of ourselves.
Humility is not something that comes easily for me. I’ve spent a number of decades dismantling the ways in which my ego holds fast and ways in which that is helpful…and ways in which it is destructive. I have learned, and continue to learn, to let things go with greater and greater rapidity. Maybe this will be helpful for you, too? I hope so.
It goes something like this:
I am triggered ~
it creates a feeling in my body ~
where in my body? ~
what does this feeling feel like? ~
what is it bringing up for me? ~
what is the root of this feeling? the memory behind it?
what is the emotion associated with it? shame? guilt? fear? (hint: it’s usually one of these. If it’s rage, dig deeper. If it’s judgement, dig deeper.)
can I let it go?~
(usually) yes ~
(sometimes) no, and if no, I will hold it lightly in my mind until I can process it fully and release it. Sometimes it will take a few days. Sometimes months.
Digging these things out though, that’s where the gold is. This what is known in Shadow Work as ‘shining the light on the shadow’. This is when we look fully at ourselves with compassion, tenderness, and love.
I made it home safely. My husband was sleeping beside me last night. This morning I counted cats. They are all there, purring, eating breakfast, apparently smarter than I am. This is enough.
Memento Mori (remember: you will die)
Even when the owl
the shrew cries owl
into the black woods
its life a last blaze
small fire of its body
By David Whyte, from a poem entitled THE SOUND OF THE WILD, from the book Fire in the Earth.