As another winter storm bears down on New England, I engage in my pre-storm ritual: obsessively reading weather reports and blogs. I love weather. I love storm watching. I feel (despite much evidence to the contrary) that if I read everything I will know what the future holds. I will be able to predict what will happen and where. I will be prepared.
Of course, I am not. Meteorology may be a science but it is clearly not an exact one. Every storm teaches me that the future is unknowable, and therefore uncontrollable. My constant reading aside, the weather will do what it plans to do. Rain/snow lines will shift, low pressure systems will unexpectedly move in and my day will be affected in ways I hadn’t planned.
In short, the weather is just another area of my life over which I have very little control. The career I planned in my twenties is very different than the one I have now. The marriage I imagined as a child bears little resemblance to the one in which I happily find myself. The beautiful children I have today are very different than the ones I daydreamed about as I held my hand over my swollen belly all those years ago. What happened? Life.
All the preparation in the world, all the good advice, all the self-help and parenting books, could not prepare me for the ways that life intervened. I could not have predicted the ways that love, economics, ambition, violence and illness would affect the trajectory of my life. All the reading and planning could not have prepared me for the ways in which life would alter and change me- shifting priorities, values and beliefs.
Control is an illusion.What mattered more along the way was knowing myself and being open to learning more.When life challenged me, my willingness to adjust, go with the flow and when needed, set limits, allowed me to grow as a person- to not only survive, but thrive.
We focus a lot in our society on being prepared. And preparation is important. Too often though, we focus on the wrong kind of preparation. We prepare for life’s storms never realizing that forecasts change and that the storm we prepared for is seldom the storm that arrives. We cling to dogma and ideas about the way things should be instead of looking within to build strength to find our own truths.
What I have learned is that flexibility and humility are my lifelines; knowing what I can and cannot control and learning to ask for help when I am tossed in the waves of life’s hurricanes.
I suppose that I like to watch storms because it provides me with an illusion of control. But I know now it is an illusion. I know that I can no more control the storms of my life than the storms in the Gulf Stream. But with the weather I can pretend. So, today I’ll buy the loaf of bread and the gallon of milk and enjoy watching the storm, if and when it hits.