People grow apart. Sometimes it’s mutual, sometimes it’s not. For Kate, it was not.
Her eyes opened to darkness. She was ripped from her sleep by the buzz of a phone. Kate looked over, and her heart sank. It was Michael. She sat in silence, deciding whether or not to call back. She waited. A message buzzed. One new voice mail.
She pressed the phone to her ear and listened. Tears hit the ground. A pulse of adrenaline made her forget it was three in the morning. Pacing the room, she put her phone down and played the message one more time.
“… If you don’t take me back, Kate, I swear to god, I will kill myself. You know I will.”
If you found yourself in Kate’s situation, what would you do? A person you still love is on the other end of the phone and wants to end their life unless you can lend them your love for a little longer.
Kate made her decision. She said no. But what if Michael ended his life; how would she live with that?
Control is something we all want in life. We hate uncertainty and despise chance. But more often than not, fate laughs at our attempts to quash uncertainty. Everything can be taken from us at any moment. We have much less control over our lives than we realize.
While most of life is out of our control, there are parts of life that we have power over, and these are the only areas of life that matter. They are our thoughts and our actions.
Your thoughts are your own. No one can dictate what you think. Yes, we can be influenced, but influence isn’t control. It’s you who has the final say over your thoughts.
At times you will have thoughts enter your mind without your consent. It’s important to know that control of your thoughts is not the content but the overall harmony. If you find yourself with an unwanted thought, you have the power to let it pass by. You are the conductor whose ear can switch between instruments at will. When one plays off tune, you can listen closer or step back and continue to enjoy the music. **(better analogy?)**
Each of us has complete control of what we do. You might not believe this. What about the people who have authority over us, you ask? What if we found ourselves in the German concentration camps? Work or die. Do we really have control over what we do when there’s a gun to our temple? We do.
Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who found himself inside Theresienstadt, a Nazi concentration camp. His family was gone, and he watched his life’s work torn apart as the guards destroyed his journal. There was no auto-save in 1943.
Despite Frankl’s hardships, he was always in control of his actions. He had two choices, work or die. He chose to live. The way he lived showed his actions were always his own. He decided to find meaning in his suffering. He approached each day, determined not to be broken by the weight of Nazi cruelty. His choices were few, but he owned them.
You might work for a boss you despise or live with a partner who tears you down. You tell yourself that you don’t have a choice over your actions. You need the money or have to stay for the children. The truth is, you do have a choice. You just have less choice than you would like. Do your children need you together for their childhood? Is there no other way you can get by without the job you hate? Until we die, we always have control over who we are and what we choose.
It’s out of Kate’s hands
“Kate. Kate. Baby. I’m so sorry. Michael, he’s, he’s dead.” Her mom muttered through tears.
“His father told me. Last night, in the car, alone, he… They think he did it to himself. I’m so sorry, Kate. I just, I’m so sorry.”
How does Kate cope with this? How would any of us? Our friends tell us it’s not our fault, but still, we can’t help but wonder what if? Had we only given it another chance, they would still be here. Maybe we would have worked things out. Even lived a life together.
And What about the soldier that kills another human being in war, the firefighter who had to leave someone behind, or the father who rolled the car and faces the pain of living while his children are dead?
Intentions, not outcomes
There is a way out of the guilt. In life, we are only responsible for our intentions, not their outcomes. When you find yourself crushed under the weight of guilt, remember to ask yourself what role you really played. Kate broke up with Michael. Their relationship wasn’t working. We always owe it to the other person to experience real love. If we can’t be the ones to give that, then we must move on so they have the opportunity to find it, no matter how hard it might be for them at the time.
Kate broke up with Michael because they were two people she didn’t believe should be together. Once she makes that decision, she no longer has control—it’s up to life from here. None of us has control over what happens after we have taken action. It’s only the intention behind it that we wield.
Don’t punish yourself
If you have heard of the brave Leonidas and his 300 Spartans, you might remember their foe Xerxes, the Persian emperor. During his crossing into Greece, the weather sank much of his fleet. Xerxes was not someone to be crossed, even by the ocean. He did what any level-headed leader would do. He ordered his men to line up on the bowel of their ships and deliver hours of brutal lashings to the sea. A warning not to defy him again.
Punishing herself for the death of Michael is as useful as lashing the sea for bad weather. We are only accountable for what we can control. From then on, it’s up to nature.
In the end, that phone call never happened. Michael didn’t die. He found another girl, and Kate says they seem happy.
I knew a girl from school who opened the door to the reality Kate feared. If only I could go back and tell her. You’re not responsible, Lydia.Published in