The Illusion of Control

The concept of chaos is a prevelant theme in my life at the moment. The more I try to control the chaos, the more chaotic things seem to get.  It’s bad enough that I managed to give myself a rather severe migraine the other night.  It caused me to miss my writers group, and made the next day a rather fuzzy blur of lying on the sofa, drinking hot tea, and listening to my iPod. 

I asked myself repeatedly what I had done to deserve this.  In the midst of this self-induced malaise, a funny thing happened.  I did what I usually do when I’m feeling out of sorts: I asked what the lesson was.  On cue, the song on my iPod became clear, and Gnarles Barkley said through the earphones:

     “Who do you, who do you, who do you, who do you think you are? (chuckle) Bless my soul.  You think you’re in control?”

This comes from the song Crazy. The cover art is the perfect description of what’s been going on in my head.  I’m doing it to my self again.  I’m trying to impose rules on the universe instead of understanding the universe functions by its own rules.  The more I try to contain the chaos, the more it refuses to be contained.  It’s time to surf. Let me explain.

When I was first learning to scuba dive, I had two of the most amazing instructors in the world.  My favorite instructor was a guy named Floyd Bowdy, though everyone called him Bob.  I went to California on a dive trip with a bunch of students from the University of Utah, and Bob was one of our dive masters.  We did a lot of diving, including some amazing night dives off the coast of Santa Barbara.  The phosphorescent plankton in the water at night is one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen in my life – like someone has sprinkled fairy dust in the water.

We decided to do a night dive near Ana Capa island, and Bob agreed to be my dive buddy because I was feeling a bit anxious about  the whole thing.  While we were getting ready he said, “There’s a little bit of a surge and a little bit of a current, so the kelp is going to go Maytag on you.”

“Maytag?” I asked.

“Yeah, like a washing machine.  It’ll aggitate back and forth.  You just have to surf it until we get deep enough not to feel the movement so much.”

“How do you surf kelp?” I asked, really not grasping what he was saying.

“Slide along with it.  Don’t fight it or you’ll get tangled up in it.”

It didn’t make sense until I was in the water and I could feel the back-and-forth twisting.  It felt like I was inside a Maytag washer on slow-mo.  We let the air out of our BCs (the vest that controls your boyancy in the water), and face to face, we started sinking.  I could feel the kelp wrapping around me, and my natural reaction was to try to fight it and twist out of it.  Bob looked me square in the eyes through our face masks, smiled oddly with the regulator in his mouth, then relaxed his whole body, surfing down the tall stalks of kelp to a depth of 65 feet.  I followed along, not quite as relaxed, but I could feel what he meant by surfing. I slid along the kelp right beside him.  When we reached the bottom, the plankton sparkled all around, and we set off to view a reef.  It was amazing, to say the least.

When it was time to surface again, we headed up face-to-face.  The surge in the water had picked up, and I found myself wrapped like a mummy in the kelp.  I panicked.  I forgot everything Bob had told me.  I struggled, got wrapped more tightly, and accidently dumped my weight belt – the  only thing allowing me to control how fast I moved toward the surface.  I shot like a rocket the last 20 feet up, screaming every inch of the way. I popped out of the water like cork.  A few moments later, Bob surfaced.

“Are you okay? What happened?”

I explained my panick. “I think I may have dumped my weights,” I said. 

Bob dove back down to look for my weight belt but couldn’t find it.  We both swam back to the boat and climbed on board.

“I guess I should have told you how to suft on the way,” Bob said.

“I guess I should have listened to you about not freaking out,” I replied.

I’m a firm believer that giving in to panic when things feel chaotic is to invite more chaos into your life.  So I’m trying to remember to surf; feeling the chaos and riding on top of it, sliding down the tall stalks of kelp, because I know if I do that, there are beautiful things waiting to happen.  I write better, I feel better, and the universe keeps going no matter what.  Control is an illusion – it’s a nice illusion – but it’s nowhere near as nice as what you find when you give it up.


4 thoughts on “The Illusion of Control

  1. drtombibey says:

    Ms Kim,

    One reason I love art so much is it allows me beauty in a world of chaos.

    As a Doc I often find my migraine foks are the good guys; patients who see injustice and can’t find a way to correct it because of the chaos that prevails.

    Dr. B

  2. I’ve tried to explain my set of rules to the universe many times and it just yawns.


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