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On the Limits of Control


Photo by Maarten Duineveld on Unsplash

Last week I left my comfort zone far behind me and went to the French Alps to learn how to ski with my family. I never understood skiing. Tying a couple of sticks to my feet, find the steepest slope and hurtle down it hoping there are no trees in the way? Doesn’t sound like something I want to do. 


But my partner, who knows how to coax me into trying new things, said that if I don’t like it I can sit in the chalet and read all week, and that was something I could get on board with, so I agreed. Fast forward to the end of the week: Not only can I put my ski boots and skis on (it’s harder than it looks!), I have skied down green slopes without falling too much and without crashing into anyone else.


How did this happen? Well, I had a fantastic instructor, and I was in good company. We went to the resort along with two other families, good friends who also grew up in the Middle East and view this activity as a European eccentricity. The young people, of course, took right to it. Both young people in our household have asked when we can go back and generally enjoyed the trip. But there were also six parents in our group, and it helped that most of them also didn’t know how to put their skis on when we arrived at the ski resort. 


One thing that I learned over the last week is that no one is in full control of skis. Part of skiing is that you lose control sometimes. The trick is to gain it back without crashing. The ski instructor kept saying that we had to “accept the speed”. At one point, I told him that I couldn’t stop, only slow down, and he said, “Yeah, that’s everyone, not just you”. That was when I realised that my desire for full, 100% control, is simply irrelevant in this specific activity. 


It got me thinking about all the times I wanted to be 100% in control of the situation before I went into it. For instance, I wanted conditions to be perfect before I committed to writing, and at some point, I realised that would never happen. I realise now that most of the things I’m scared of are because I can’t control the situation: social events, saying what I think on social media, going to new places, letting the young people ski (or go out of the house, really). My anxiety doesn’t like it when I don’t know exactly everything that will happen. And, of course, that’s not feasible. We never know exactly everything that will happen. 


So, I look at my anxiety straight on, and I say, hey there, welcome back. Thanks for letting me know this is a scary thing. But you know what? We can do this. 

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