Think You’re in Control?

Does your mind look like Martha Stewart’s house? Everything is in its place. There is no clutter or disorganization. Memories are safely on the wall in a shadowbox. The different parts of your life neatly compartmentalized. Like the peas, potatoes, gravy and meat on your plate at dinner, everything is held distinct. Spirit shall not touch work; work shall not touch homelife. Life is really more like stew than fine dining. Any assertion that life is neat & compartmentalized is an illusion.
There is no need to fear the clutter and disorganization and uncertainty that accompany the words “I don’t know.” Those words are an invitation to adventure. Remember being six years old, in a warren of honeysuckle bush canes tracing Gothic arches. Remember when you could imagine, your mind free to roam those rabbit trails beneath the green roof of bushes. The world would tell us to forget that part of our lives.
We like security. We like to know “who’s on first.” We like to think we know the game and that we control our destinies. The reality is that we never really know how thin the ice is, how close to losing traction we are, where the edges of mortality lie. It is far more genuine and honest to admit “I don’t know.” In fact, admitting it gives us a freedom that “knowing” the answers denies us.

2 thoughts on “Think You’re in Control?

  1. Joyce

    My son struggles with self confidence since his accident. He pushed himself to far the morning of his accident…he had no slept most of the night, he had not eaten, he knew he was too warm. He has no memory of the fall. He feels angry. He should have taken control and made better decisions to keep himself strong during a crisis rather than being the crisis. RW and I have no words to comfort him. Please continue prayer for his emotional healing. Thank you Martin. I will forward this to him to ponder.

  2. martinmelville Post author

    I was hit by a tree thirty-few years ago. It was a “dumb” accident, as they often seem to their victim(s). I wasn’t totally “with it” that morning. I cut a tree. It leaned into another tree, rather than falling to the ground. I looked around for another tree to cut. Without looking up to see the leaner (“***overhead hazard***”), I chose the tree it was hung in. As it fell, the leaner came along & clobbered me. I got a cracked cheekbone and a dislocated hip out of the deal. The same day, another fellow was killed in a similar accident, further down the same mountain. The hip is getting arthritic now. I could wish I hadn’t done that (gotten hit), but it wouldn’t change anything. We only move forward in this world.

    People are awakened by being the crisis. The event had notable effects on the direction of my life and career. I learned as much as I could about logging safety. I eventually became the manager of training programs for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, helping loggers learn to do their jobs more safely, productively, and profitably. On the one hand, it is right to grieve the inevitable loss (passing?) of who we were. But to be healthy, grief must look forward, past itself.

    In 2008, we were doing hazard reduction work in Promised Land State Park, east of Scranton. It’s almost 200 miles from home, so we spent the week there “camping” in the Poconos. It was before Memorial day, so I was the only one in the campground until a couple arrived, pulling a travel trailer.

    I don’t remember what I needed- -salt or catsup or what- -but I went over to see if they had some of it. They invited me to stay for dinner. As the fire burned low, their story unfolded. They were restless. They were seeking peace. Their son had died in an auto accident, an innocent bystander on the shoulder of the road, flattened when a tractor trailer jackknifed and capsized on his car. They were distraught, even now, a year later. They knew this consuming grief, but had no way to process it; it was all they could name.

    I said good night and went to my tent. To say I slept would be incorrect. I spent the night weeping (which in some sense is different than crying) and praying for them, for their son, for their grief. In the morning I rose and wrote what I had been given. It was a sort of manual on the process of grieving:
    Their son could not return to this world. That could not be changed. And so in the spirit of problem solving (step 1: acknowledge the problem), they needed to come to admit that what was “was.” Say good-bye. Achieve closure. Then they needed to look forward. I wrote that I didn’t know if they were people of faith, but that even if they weren’t, prayer helps. Eventually they would see the grief diminish and their own lives return. The words were not mine. They had been given through the night (as so many things are). Forward.

    I suppose it’s life logging with worn out equipment. I often feel like I’ve been dropped on a desert island with a map that says “you are here.” It doesn’t matter how I got there. The only thing that matters is where do I go from here. Forward.


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