Gail's Blog

Controlling the Uncontrollable–Wildfires and Life

Last week I was up on the Central Coast of California enjoying a few days of rest.  It is just about my most favorite area of 11-15-2008 Brea California Wild Fire Series. Various images fromCalifornia.  It has a wonderful pace of life and mile after mile of coastal beauty.  I like to go there and just hide away in one of the lovely beach towns.  My favorite area is Morrow Bay and Los Osos.  You can sit on the dock, have breakfast and listen to the sea otters.  About as peaceful as it gets.  Plus it has a raw beauty about it.  The beaches have seaweed, shells and horses.  A few people ride their horses on the beach.  It looks like something straight out of an advertisement.  In fact, you have seen Morro Bay’s enormous 14 million year rock in many of your car commercials.

Two things happened on this trip.  Both of them weren’t earth shattering but both would give you pause to think of a bigger picture than yourself and your mundane activities.  Both of them have to do with control or the illusion of control.  It is an illusion.  We control little here but we act as if we are in control of it all.  There is nothing like a big whack on the side of the head to bring you out of your illusion.

I met a woman named Barbara on this trip.  She was sitting by herself at a nearby table having coffee.  We struck up a conversation.  She has lived in Morro Bay for three years and loves it.  She lives by herself and has coffee or breakfast just about every day at the Blue Sky Restaurant on Morro Bay’s dock.  They call it the Embarcadero.  I asked her what prompted her to move to Morro Bay and then she told me the story.  It seems three years ago Barbara and her husband were both retiring school teachers in Fresno, CA.  Within a short period of 6 weeks her life would be changed forever.  Her husband had not felt well, went to the doctor and within two weeks died of cancer.  Her daughter, who worked in Compton as a school teacher, was beaten to death by a gang.  Her brother also died within this 6 week period.  Her husband, before he died, told her to get out of Fresno and go to Morro Bay where they had visited numerous times and loved it.  She did.

I don’t know about you, but I was stunned just hearing this.  The randomness of these events.  I am sure Barbara would have stayed in Fresno for years.  They owned a home, had numerous friends and were very involved.  The funny thing about it all is that when this happened and she decided to move very quickly, almost all her friends tried to talk her out of it and some became quite angry with her for not doing what they suggested.  She said she left and has not looked back.  The only family she has left is her son who lives in Los Angeles.  She says he is doing well.  She has made a new life for herself and the wait staff at Blue Sky is her new family.  In fact, unbeknownst to her, one of the servers said that the entire staff has started a Christmas collection for her.  They are buying her Christmas presents as a holiday surprise.  Barbara has given up controlling her life and lives in the unusual space of loss and love.  She does volunteer work which includes clearing sand away from walkways so people with disabilities can move safely.  Now tell me, how would you survive this given set of circumstances?  This was a complete surrender and trust to the life force.

The second experience that happened on this trip was the drive back to Los Angeles.  I am sure you know all about the fires that are still raging in Southern California.  These fires lick the 101 freeway and I knew that was my route back.  I followed the reports and they said the 101 was open so off I drove.  It was wide open and beautiful for about an hour and a half and then it was just blocked.  You were forced to drive off the road into the great unknown.  The beach and sand were on your right so you had no choice but to go left into the canyons and find your way out.

Now these canyons don’t have signs, no road numbers, no houses, no nothing.  Just deep country roads and some vineyards.  You were literally following your nose.  The only sign I did see what “poor pavement ahead”, Caution.  This was a complete trust road trip.  No GPS was going to help because I didn’t know what my destination would be.  Was I going to Los Angeles, Santa Barbara where?  The sun was on my right side so I knew I could follow that and I just wanted to keep going south or what I felt was south.  This was a complete letting go and just trust you will end up safely.  You never want to get trapped in a canyon where there might be a spreading fire.  I just kept on going and eventually landed on a paved road that had a number.  This led me to a sign that said Santa Barbara.  I took it and I was right.  The rest of the trip was uneventful except for the smoke and still burning fires on the hillsides of the 101.  I did buy face masks in Morrow Bay knowing I would go through smoke territory.

Both of these incidents required transcending the control of your situation.  Barbara had no control over her situation except for how she would manage herself, her emotions and her choices.  I had no control over the drive except for complete trust that I would be led safely to whatever was my destination.

In living our lives here on earth, remember that we can plan, we can direct, we can worry, we can expect but we cannot control.  Our lives will have the element of randomness.  We should teach ourselves to realize this is always part of our journey.  Sometimes our entire house burns down around us and yet we are left standing.  What would you do?


11 responses to “Controlling the Uncontrollable–Wildfires and Life”

  1. Rob Humrickhouse says:

    Controlling the Uncontrollable

    Two words – we can’t. Whether through a sudden trauma or waning dissolution of dreams, the cosmos propels us to outcomes unplanned. How we bear the imperative to accept that fortune is our only opportunity for control. I lived through end stage liver disease for several years and it was anything but planned. Eventually I arrived at a place that was completely out of my control – a prognosis of certain death. When the granular activities of death become items to scratch off your “to-do” list there is opportunity aplenty to spiral down an angry conclusion. I chose poise and peace of mind to equip my actions and reactions. The last hours before I headed to the hospital for a transplant I finished the “to-do” list and then pondered beauty, the flowers in my garden, and the crystalline horizon of Lake Michigan – my Morro Bay. That night I would either die, or be given a second life. Outcome uncontrollable but either way I would be at peace.

  2. Jane Sorbi says:

    Hi Gail,
    Thank you so much for a heartbreaking, yet very beautiful story. The human spirit is indomitable – when we are able and have the courage to listen. How lovely Barbara is gradually able to begin to put her heart back into life and help others. And so pleased you found your way home! I have two friends in Ojai, evacuated, now back home, constantly living in the ‘not knowing’, but trusting. How right you are, there is no control. From floods here in Houston, to fires in California. .. and we grow in the meantime! Our thoughts are with those who are coping with so much, worldwide. Thank you Gail, blessings for Christmas.

  3. Linda O’Kane says:

    I have a brave friend that just packed herself up and moved to a place she has loved over the past 12 years.
    It was after she helped her mother pass on. I believe helping one to the other side gives us many gifts…one being the strength to see life clearly… and hopefully he stepping stones to our bravery.
    Synchronicity has been one of my favorite words and awareness…I love the guidance of God speaking to me, through numbers, you, and my friend, and Barbara…Happy Holidays and Happy Trails to us all..lala

  4. Debbie says:

    Thank You, for writing this. It totally made sense to me in every way.
    I just visited my 92 year old Dad, in Ma. For three days…it was a Blessing, as this week, he decided to commit suicide w/ a shotgun. His health, strength & mobility were declining. Winter, was setting in & since he has fallen four times since July, he had a fear of breaking his hip & having to go into rehab or a nursing home.
    Just another example of absolutely NO control in my world.
    But he did pretty much want to control his.
    He was never fearful of anything ever in his life…except Nursing Homes.
    Wishing You A Blessed Holiday Season & Thank You, for sharing your gifts

  5. Caroline Leban says:

    Glad you are ok. That is something to go through, but know while hiking years ago out west, I was separated from a group, and it
    really freaked me out. I was scared, but luckily the group was not that far away. They were a bunch of buddies but when you get right
    down to it, you come in alone and go out alone, so you better depend on yourself for everything. No matter how you plan, as you said, things
    can change and we better be ready for that. We are travelling now, and have heard many interesting stories about bravery and survival from many
    of the passengers. Wonderful trip from Barcelona to Miami on a small ship which is great. Take care.

  6. Gail, thank you so much for this very insightful and inspiring post. For me it has come, as everything does, at the perfect time for reflection. As always your post has snapped me back to the realization of what is really important. I so appreciate you and I hope that you keep in touch with Barbara. When we lose the people in our lives who are so close to us it is important to remember that friends are the family that we choose for ourselves, and also to keep in mind that we are Eternal Spiritual Souls here for a while for an Earthly Experience. Our soul’s life is Forever.
    Happy Holidays to you and all of your followers.

  7. Jude says:

    I had a session with well-known meditation teacher from Carlsbad, CA, Davidji last nite. He led us thru a guided meditation where at the end of a series of 4 different meditations we set our intention. We were asked not to ‘think’ about our goal line (that in itself is a practice even after 43 years of meditating).
    Any way, long story to the synchronicities in our daily life…your story about letting go of control. My intention last nite at the end of the sessions is to remove control from my life and allow for free-will. Now, this is not to say that there is no direction or commitment to my intention but once I go as far as I can and don’t get near the hamster wheel then I am free.
    I surrendered when my mom was ill…just plain asked Spirit to take over as I had done everything I could do and the world of support opened up to me/us. To know that the Universe hears us and rewards when we are aligned to our higher self isn’t just for one person but for all of us.
    With this woman Barbara…I’m inspired. What courage…pure love.

  8. Laurie Donohoo Pollack says:

    In 2009 my life fell.apart. The economy cost me my business, I got a divorce, and my ex husband walked off with the rest of the money. However, I was put on a journey to heal in a town north of Seattle called Edmonds. I lived on Puget Sound. I awoke to seagulls, the ferries, the ocean, and a beautiful little church. I could live there forever. I woke up to God’s word. I cried it out and enjoyed a whole year in paradise. Life had other plans. I had to leave Edmonds. However , it was a journey of pain and healing. People thought I was crazy too! No one will ever know how my life changed that year. The beauty I was to experience was incredible!

  9. Deaths usually happened in threes when you include divorce and other forms of separation.

  10. “Use me in service for the highest good of all concerned,” and I await life to unfold. I do not see myself remaining in Southern California and would love to find a quiet place surrounded by nature, but I patiently wait for my walking papers from the Universe.

  11. Ah yes, trust and surrender. Letting go of the ego’s need to be in control. Choosing a sailboat over a locomotive to live one’s life.

    I had to smile about Barbara’s story. Her losses were horrific, but they led her to a place of peace and contentment with what is. I had to learn that lesson as well. I pet sit and do a lot of volunteer work in support of animals, my heart’s desire. Without the load of household bills and other encumbrances, I have the freedom to enjoy a life I had never known as an employee and working in a j-o-b. And so I make myself available for my next “assignment,” my daily prayer is

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