Who is in control?

by Rebecca Crichton

Perhaps you have run into the concept that, as we get older, we get more stuck in our ways, more resistant to having things change. As in all stereotypes, there is some grain of truth to it. And, as in all stereotypes, it is applied to everybody in a group — usually in a negative way.

In the field of aging, I am struck by how many changes older people have to deal with as they negotiate their lives. Selling homes they’ve lived in for decades, dealing with physical alterations and diagnoses that require difficult decisions, loss of friends and family who move away or die.

Some of us are more comfortable with change than others. When I worked at Boeing, I remember interviewing a man who proudly showed me the desk he had worked at for over forty years. He loved his routine. His life was predictable and reliable; he counted on it staying that way until he retired, which he wasn’t in a hurry to do.

I found the idea of being in one place, doing the same thing for years, not just unappealing, but downright scary. New things, new adventures, and new people stimulate my creativity.  

I believe that creativity is the central pillar of the work I do at NWCCA. Like many, I can feel unsure and doubtful about my capacity to create, and have to remind myself of a statement from a book about creativity (no, I can’t retrieve what it was and who wrote it, but it stuck with me). The author wrote that when he urged people to explain how they arrived at particular solutions to creative challenges, they all finally admitted that they ‘made it up.’

I ‘make it up’ all the time. At any given moment, when deciding what to do and how to do it, I recognize that I am sifting options. What is calling to be expressed? What outside influence needs a creative response? What is mine to do?— the base-line question that animates so many of my choices.

As our aging population increases—we are getting older, staying alive and healthier longer than previous generations—we keep discovering what people need to stay well and engaged. We know how important exercise and new learning are. Research keeps showing that being in community and connected with others is crucial to overall health. Having a sense of purpose is high on the list of what keeps us moving forward in our lives.

We know that change is the only constant and that it spurs our creativity. We are constantly ‘making it up’ as we decide what to do and how to live our lives with intention and purpose.

All of us strive to be in as much control of our lives as we can. I know people whose need to be in control of everything causes pain for themselves and for those around them. I see how the dynamics of change, creativity, and control force us to contend with what it is we can and cannot control.  

If you Google What can we control? you will find lists ranging from a minimal three to more than 75. This list from tinybuddha.com surprised me with its combination of action and attitude. Even a few of them that cause an ‘Aha’ moment might be what you need right now to change your mood, lead to a creative decision, or free you from negativity.

Control what you can – more than you probably ever considered –  and let the rest go. Doing so with compassion and appreciation often helps.