Gratitude Sunday: Who Controls All My Ducklings?

Gratitude * Sunday

Quote of the Week – “As long as I live I will have control over my being.”
Artemisia Gentileschi

Sunday Haiku
One daffodil pops
out, a crocus follows, and
suddenly, it’s Spring!

Sunday Musings
It’s nearly Spring; March is coming in like that proverbial lion. In the Portland metro area the weather keeps teasing us with random dustings of snow and it’s cold still.

Are your ducklings in a row? Mine are wandering all over the place. Story of my life. Some of life you can go with the flow, but I have learned to make an effort to be proactive. When I was granted the opportunity to go to college as a 39 year old adult one of my best lessons was about procrastination, which is my natural inclination, but it’s not my friend. I learned to do my homework immediately after class or as soon as it was assigned, which had benefits. First, it reinforced the information just presented. Second, I could mark it off the to-do list and not have the task hanging over my head. The relief of knowing that 15 page research paper was done and turned in early and I could go on to the next project was priceless.

We are led to believe we are in control, that we can keep those duckies all lined up, neat and tidy, no detours, nothing out of place. What do we really get to control? I may have been in control of when I got my homework done and turned in but it seems to me we all start with the same lottery and we throw the dice with everything that comes next.

We don’t control our conceptions. We don’t control whether our parents were healthy when we were conceived, or their parents before them. We don’t control our DNA. We don’t control which genes we inherit from which parent. We don’t control our genetic combinations. We don’t control any spontaneous mutation that might occur when sperm meets ovum.

We don’t control which family we are born into. We don’t control whether we get to stay with our birth families, or the families into which we might be adopted or fostered. We don’t get to control whether we have siblings.

We don’t control our intelligence, or our ability to learn, or our degree of curiosity or creativity. We don’t control how our body functions, or when it gets sick, or when it fails us miserably. We don’t control when all things physical or mental go awry in our systems.

Women don’t control when their first menses occurs, or when the monthly cycle takes place and presents. Women don’t control the onset of menopause, how the body responds physically to the change in hormones, or when the cycle finally stops. Men don’t always have control over erections or ejaculations. We don’t have control of when our bodies join the sperm and the ovum and creates a new life.

We make plans. We set goals. We pursue education, employment, adventure, and pleasure. We don’t control whether our experiences provide us with the skills and fun we seek. We don’t control if the path is smooth or easy despite our plans, goals, and pursuit. Even if we do everything according to our plan, it doesn’t mean educators or employers (or even friends and family) have any investment in our plan. We cannot control our educational or employment success. I can control when and how early and how well (I think) I do my work; I cannot control whether an educator or employer deems my work acceptable or exceptional. Sometimes it works out great, other times not so much.

We can do everything in our power to control what we think we can control. For example, I can control what food and drink goes into my mouth. I can control what kind and how much exercise I take. Contrary to popular belief, that does not make me in control of my body. How my body reacts to food and exercise is entirely out of my control despite the lies told to us by doctors and advertisers. We don’t control our appearance or our bodies, though modern marketing techniques, the beauty and diet industry, and the medical paradigm insist we can control the size and shape of our bodies. We can put layers of clothing on but that doesn’t mean we will get warm. We can take clothing off, but that doesn’t mean we will feel cooler.

We don’t control how quickly we age or when our bodies wear out. We don’t control when Death comes in search of our wayward souls and abused bodies. We don’t control the method of our death whether through years long debilitating disease, the tragic incident that happens in the blink of an eye, or an easy, peaceful release into that good night.

We cannot control the earth’s orbit around the sun, or how far we are from the sun. We cannot control the weather, though we might be able to have an effect on the climate. We cannot control when mechanical things break and need to be fixed or replaced. We can control our personal carbon footprint by recycling plastics, reusing or repairing items, and reducing what we purchase or waste, but we cannot control the pollution corporations are allowed to perpetrate upon our planet every day in the name of profit. We can control whom we vote for, but we don’t always get to control who wins the right to serve us, as evidenced by recent electoral college flukes and subsequent presidential appointments.

The things we can control don’t necessarily bring us what we need to live in this world. We can take education and put it together with hard work. We can do our daily tasks and fulfill our employment with moral and ethical behavior. Just because we make that effort doesn’t mean others will, as we see clear up to the highest levels of government in the United States these days. We don’t control other people. We can control our behavior or what we think about others, but we can’t control what they think or how they behave.

Back in 2016 all my duckies were kicked out of the water. I had been employed in the same job for more than 16 years and had plans to retire at 20 years. The quirk of a cane (a walking assistance device) and the slip of a word (the parts I was in control of) and the interpretations of others (the part I wasn’t in control of) resulted in employment termination and the duckies nearly drowning.

Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemesia Gentileschi

Fast forward three years. While no new employment has been obtained some of those duckies have to be forced back into line. Not a nice straight line. My duckies find every crack, and chute, and ladder, and rope to slide down and climb up you can imagine and some you can’t. Any kind of wavering line will suffice at this point.

One has to have income to live in this society, even if one does not have employment. The other choice is living under bridges, as living with family still requires income or one gets labeled a free-loader. I had the bridge experience when I was younger; that was plenty, I’m too old now, it would just kill me. Neither income nor employment gives one perfect control over one’s finances unless one has enough; enough financially has not been the story of my life. My last place of employment at least earned me a small monthly pension, and I am grateful for the comfort of knowing if I die first, the hubster will have that income through his lifetime as well.

Having stretched my savings as far as I could (the savings that was meant for after my retirement), I recently decided I needed to claim my Social Security Earned Retirement Income. The current federal administration and the GOP wants us to think this is some kind of benefit they benevolently bestow upon us, but do not be fooled. Decent, honest, hardworking, accountable Americans pay for their retirement in every paycheck with tax investments and it is specifically labeled thus; it is our earned income we invest in our retirement while working for as many years as we are able. American government uses that particular tax investment interest free for other needs until we claim retirement.

Less than a year ago I applied for the hubster’s Medicare on-line, and because he doesn’t qualify for his own Social Security Earned Retirement Income, it resulted in a face to face appointment. Then I applied for my Medicare, resulting in a face to face appointment. Then I applied for my retirement, and because I didn’t apply for Retirement and Medicare at the same time the system thought I was attempting to defraud, so another face to face appointment, and a resolution after five weeks of case worker attempts and technological experts to address the crack in the system. This week we applied for the hubster’s spousal retirement, because we are in the age group lucky to still qualify for that much needed income, and which is tied to mine because of his work history because of disability, and once again the face to face appointment resulted in finding the cracks in a system I don’t get to control. The wheels of government turn slowly, but I have a feeling this crack will be smoothed away rather soonish.

As the case worker applied herself to our application, once again things did not go according to routine. Under her breath she said to the computer, “Why is this not working right?” Hubster and I could not help it, we simultaneously said, “Story of my life!” and burst out laughing. Sometimes laughing is the best one can do.

So many things are out of our control, even if the illusion of control is there. In the Buddhist tradition nothing is permanent, everything changes. We might think we are in control but anything can change in the blink of an eye. We have only this moment of reality, and I have a modicum of control over what I do with this moment.

Do I choose to write or clean? When I chose to clean recently I killed the vacuum cleaner so now I’m cleaning averse. When I chose to write recently I achieved a timeless space; hours faded away through the cosmos and the words flowed. How do I choose? Cleaning needs to be done but now it’s also an expense (repair or replace) and the pleasure factor is only after the cleaning is done, which is a never ending process. Writing wants to be done, and though there’s no profit in it right now the pleasure factor is vaguely more rewarding. The control is in my choice for this immediate moment, this very now, as a co-worker’s son used to say when he was small.

Do I choose to jump through hoops to get assistance or go without? Since I am the best crack finder I should probably keep jumping. It will keep me on my toes. Besides my commitment to flopping around the swimming pool, jumping through hoops and finding cracks are good exercise, of which I get to control how much I take. I have a few faculties and wits at my disposal still, so with the tenacity of a good border collie I’m going to keep herding my duckies with as much control as I can maintain. As long as I can.

Color Watch – colorful attractions in my neighborhoods this week – A bright patch of yellow daffodil faces. Blue periwinkle brightens the day. My favorite yard is full of purple, yellow, and white crocus, and shooting stars come right after.

Current View – {These are only my opinions about movies and books, but don’t let me stop you from trying these reviewed items yourself; your opinion may differ.} The House with a Clock in Its Walls (2018, rated PG) with Jack Black and Cate Blanchett. A young boy loses his parents to a terrible accident and goes to live with his mysterious uncle in a creepy old house. This Universal production has the flavor of a Disney movie without being subjected to the music. Story and plot are acceptable; be warned there are more poop and potty jokes than I care for, but then the movie is designed for 10 year olds.

Currently ReadingThe Witch Elm (2018, fiction) by Tana French. I hesitated to read this because I’ve read one by this author previously, and it was really good until it wasn’t, and it was disconcerting because I could not put my finger on what happened to put me off the story at the end. French is known for crime fiction, creating stories of mystery and intrigue. Like her other novel, she captures me quickly and I feel like I’m being seduced by her web, drawing me in, taking me deeper into the story, quickly leading me down the rabbit hole, hints of what has happened in the past to get to this moment of the plot woven through the story. I’m trying to ignore my distaste at the end of the last novel of her’s I read because I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me (so then I think it’s just me); I’m ready to give her work a fresh go. Hoping to be pleasantly surprised. * Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health (2013, nutrition) by Jo Robinson. This is so chock full of healthful tips I might need to own it as a reference item.

This week I have been grateful for:

  • Having to drive while it was lightly snowing (I’m a driving wuss), and I was fine. And that everybody around me seemed to be cautious as well.
  • A trip half way across town without incident.
  • That day about once a month I don’t bother to get out of my jammies until it’s time to go to the pool, and the hubster hasn’t complained.
  • Finding a swimsuit in my size and style at the discount store. The material pattern is blah, but it covers the body parts I need to cover at a price I was willing to pay.
  • How much I love being able to move my body in the pool. Body zen.
  • Getting most of my room vacuumed before killing the vacuum.
  • How exciting life is when you use mechanical appliances. Will it, won’t it? Keeps the blood warm.
  • First 50 degree day of the season so I could open a window and get some cobwebs dusted out.
  • How fresh the air felt when shaking out the cobwebs.
  • Taking time to put a spring tablecloth on the dining table even though it’s not technically spring. Feels hopeful.
  • Remembering a fire hose does not fix cleaning issues; it just makes the whole mess messier. Patience and persistence is good for the tortoise.
  • Five minute work windows. Multiplied by hour, day, and sun.
  • A juicy mango even if it did come from Mexico.
  • Water.

Hoping you have a lovely week.

Namaste. Peace. Blessings.

Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch

This entry was posted in abundance, Aging, Careers, Education, GRATITUDE, Grief, Health, History, Nature, Photography, Poetry, Science and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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