Losing Control

I think I know why people talk about the weather. It’s because there is nothing we can do to control it. If we can’t control something, then we can damn well talk about it. This is why people stop by my office, which consists of an entire wall of windows overlooking a courtyard and tell me “You wouldn’t believe how nice it is outside today!” Squinting from the glare, I think No shit, Sherlock, but what I say is “You don’t say?” because people need to hear themselves talk about things they can’t control.

It would be OK if they stopped there, but they usually follow up the immediate weather report with an extended forecast. Invariably, they paint a picture of the weekend weather as perfect: Even if it will be cold and rainy with wind gusts up to fifty miles per hour. “Nice weather to curl up with a good book!” They say. I’d love to reply “Or great weather to plan that suicide you’ve been putting off!” but most people wouldn’t see the humor in that.

It is an American thing to be delusional about the uncontrollable. Several years ago I was working at a company that experienced one lay off after another. It was difficult to see our friends and co-workers leave. Those of us lucky enough to keep our jobs yammered on about what a great opportunity it would be for the departed. “You’ll find something better than this!” was heard over and over again. My Irish friend had a different take “This is shit. If I got laid off all I’d be saying is what the feck am I going to do now?” But that type of comment makes people uncomfortable. If you can’t control something, you want to think that it is beyond your control for some greater purpose; “When one door closes, another one opens” type of thinking.

Friends don't let friends quote country songs!
During the layoffs, I overheard one woman say to another “Well, I guess I’ll let go and let God.” To which her friend replied with one hand in the air à la Christina Aguilera high-note, “Jesus take the wheel.” This sort of thinking rubs me the wrong way so I couldn’t help but ask “Do you really want someone who’s not afraid of death driving you around in your car?” It seemed like a valid question. Can we really believe that everything is beyond our control and that a guiding force is watching over us?

This morning, while looking in the bathroom mirror at the gray in my hair, I begin to separate the things I can and cannot control. When your child turns twenty one, you are forced to think about these things. I turn on the cold water to brush my teeth and watch the steam rise. Apparently, cold water is something new to add to the list of uncontrollable things. It’s right below the inability to control the heat in our condo. Once it is turned on for the season, our condo maintains a steady seventy seven degrees, unless we open the windows. While the snow is falling outside, Paul and I sit around in boxers and t-shirts with the windows wide open.

That night I meet my friend Julie for drinks. Despite being out of work for one year she still maintains the same level of fun and perkiness that drew me to her in the first place. In no time we have downed two martinis and are laughing about her gay boyfriend from many years ago.

“We had this cook book that was displayed in the kitchen with our Pottery Barn china that Scott picked out. Every week he would say to me, it’s time to turn the page!” Julie says laughing. I wonder to myself how she couldn’t figure it out. By the end of the night we have had our fill of laughter and drinks.

On my walk home I think about Julie. She did not once mention how depressing it is to be out of work. Maybe the important thing is not that we lose control, but more how we react to that. Pools of light from the street lamps dot the streets as I walk through the city in the cool autumn night. Amy Winehouse plays on my iPod and I wonder if the entire world can hear her singing. The T screeches towards its next stop, disappearing into the night. A singular moment of piercing truth hits me. This is my life. I am finally who I was meant to become. Maybe there is a guiding presence looking over me. A cold breeze rustles the leaves. I button my coat. Two more blocks and then I’ll be home. I’ll climb the stairs and open the door to our condo, where it’s not uncontrollably hot, but eternally summer and the windows are always open.

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