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Monday, October 5, 2015

The Illusion of Control

When going through a hard time, I watch movies to help me deal with the chaos or the disappointment. 
This month has been very difficult for people I know, so I thought I would share something that gave me comfort while facing a trying time. 
I was very angry, and in a way I still am with the situations that I've had to face. The uncertainty, the loss and the challenges that lay ahead. 
On the way back to Arkansas, from one of the most heart-wrenching visits with family that I had, I watched Kung Fu Panda, and I learned another interesting lesson about life. 
I've watched this movie countless times. We even watched it in South Korea, and the students had to write about what had happened in the story. 
Typically watching this movie, Po is the character I identify with. I have a dream, and obstacles that I have to overcome to achieve it. But his story is only one lesson of many in the film. 
Shifu has a lesson of his own, and I'm surprised I didn't pick up on it before. 
Shifu's obstacle in the film is wanting to be in control. He trained Tai Lung to be the best, but when things didn't go according to his expectations, he shut himself off from his later students. He became guarded, cold and obsessed with control. Po is a wild card in his plan, and he doesn't know what to do with it. First, he tries to get rid of that unexpected element. He tries to convince Po to leave. 
He runs to his master, Oogway, hoping that somehow Oogway will agree that Po is not the dragon warrior. He tries to explain that it was an accident, and it's impossible for Po to be the dragon warrior. 
Oogway tells him, "My old friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control." 
Life is unpredictable. We may plan for as much as we can, but there are no guarantees. It's easy to forget this in the fashion of a daily routine. Sometimes we can control things in our lives, but when we can't it is natural to feel frustrated. 
That was where I was at. I was grieving for my uncle, not wanting to face the truth that he was gone. Not wanting to believe that he didn't have that year the doctor told him to get better. And, I was frustrated with the fact that no matter what I tried, I couldn't secure a job or place to live when the time came for my family to move to Arkansas. As much as I love my family, I was angry at myself. I felt like I had failed, and that I had sunk so low, I would never get back to a life of my own. I had given up, and I had allowed despair, grief and anger to rule my mind and heart. 
But life cannot be controlled. You can perform actions, that in turn become events and there are specific actions that set off a specific chain of events, but there is no guarantee that what you do will control everything in your life, or prepare you for anything that comes your way. 
This lesson may seem obvious and simple on paper, but it is harder to accept it and live that way. 
I wanted to control my life, and the events that happened in it, and I had expected my plan to be flawless. But that was an unrealistic view. 
I had a lesson to learn, and I don't regret learning it. 
Reacting to something is natural, and not every reaction is easy to choose, especially when a loved one dies or you lose a job. There's no manual that tells you how to prepare for those moments, just as there is no manual to tell you how to live your life. The best you can do is to live them, and accept that you do not control them. So I will focus on my reactions, and work with what I can control. 
I wrote something for my uncle, and I am still applying for jobs. I will focus on what I can do, and hope for the best. 
Grief is natural, and life is messy. Sometimes the best thing to do, is to let go of the illusion of control. 

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