coffee and control

It’s a new year and time for new resolutions. luckily, I didn’t make any; still, those niggling and imperfect behaviours I usually resolve to change are on my mind.

Like my caffeine and nicotine use. I didn’t make a new year’s resolution to cut back, but possibly reducing my consumption is something I think about quite often.

Instead, it’s the new year and the number of cups I quaff is up, and the smoking is escalating.

The control, or rather the lack of control that I’m currently experiencing in my life feels problematic.

I’m a bit of a control freak. Actually, I’m a huge control freak. It relates to my anxiety. My internal life is full of agitation, chaos, and overwhelming thoughts. In order to mitigate it, I try to keep my external life organized and structured. A tranquil environment leads to a tranquil life, or at least a less agitated one.

Events have conspired against me, however, and my external life has become one of chaos and confusion. People aren’t conforming to the rules I have for how they should behave. It’s hard for them to, really, since they don’t know about them, but that’s beside the point. People are simply hard to control; furniture placement is much easier but that’s under attack as well.

The people in my life are struggling. My children are moving into adulthood and the complex problems that ensue have come with them. I wish it weren’t so.

I want nothing more than to fix everything for them, to make life smooth and simple. Coming to understand that I can’t fix other people is frustrating in the extreme. It seems massively unfair; I have all this experience but I can’t use it to make their lives and their choices easier.

I can’t, because things outside of myself and my actions are not in my control. I focus on controlling the wrong things in order to make that not true, but nothing changes the truth. No matter how tidy and well-organized your environment gets.

Epictetus said it very well:

We are responsible for some things, while there are others for which we cannot be held responsible. The former includes our judgment, our impulse, our desire, aversion and our mental faculties in general; the latter include the body, material possessions, our reputation, status – in a word, anything not in our power to control. … [I]f you have the right idea about what really belongs to you and what does not, you will never be subject to force or hindrance, you will never blame or criticize anyone, and everything you do will be done willingly. You won’t have a single rival, no one to hurt you, because you will be proof against harm of any kind

Truer words and all that, though sometimes, I don’t like them very much. I preferred it when I thought I could fix the people around me.

Unfortunately, I can’t.

It truly is up to me and to them and to everyone else to run our own lives.

The fact that I’m in control of my behaviours also means that I can’t blame the increase in my negative behaviours on anyone else, regardless of how much their problems are distressing me. Regardless of my preference for a quiet and peaceful environment.

My thoughts, responses, and actions are mine alone.

People are entitled to live their own lives and make their own decisions. They’re entitled to own their own actions. I don’t have the right to impose my thoughts and solutions on them, even if I think I know best. Other people’s lives are not in my control.

Knowing that is frustrating in the extreme, so the amped up stimulant consumption will probably continue for a bit. It’s in my control to change it, but it’s also in my control to decide to let the behaviour ride while I come to terms with the limits of life.

Coffee, anyone?

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