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Controlling Irene

Controlling Irene

Lessons learned from the super-storm.


It's been all Irene all weekend.

At first we didn't take it seriously. We live in New York, for goodness sake. We never have hurricanes (or earthquakes for that matter). The fact that Hurricane Irene was in the Bahamas, Florida and even North Carolina is one thing, but it's not coming up to New York.

Then the city started to shut down. Evacuations, power outages and road closings. We are, for all intents and purposes, on lockdown as we brace for the storm.

As soon as the reality of the situation sunk in, I had this uncomfortable feeling that I couldn't explain. There was some fear and anxiety, but that wasn't it. And then, last night, I realized what it was.

I am not in control.

I can't control where to go, what to do or whether I'll even have power. I can't control what will happen to my loved ones, to other people and property. I can't control if I will have a new swimming pool instead of a basement. My life is just not in my control.

We all love to be in control. When we get in the car, we like to know exactly how to get to our destination and when we will get there. We like to know we have enough money in our bank account to cover our annual expenses. We like our children to act in way where we know how they will turn out when they get older. We take, and stay in, certain jobs because we like to control our financial future. Preparation is one thing. But for most of us, we yearn for control.

But if we've learned anything these past few weeks, months and years, is that we are not in control. Stable institutions can fail. Stable governments can get downgraded. Stable environments can have two natural disasters in one week.

We are not in control.

But after the initial discomfort of that reality set in, I had another feeling.

I realized that, in fact, I was in control. Not of traffic, the future of my children, the financial markets or the environment, but I was in control of myself.

I was in control over how I responded to challenge. Would I be stressed or show strength? Would I spend the time doing something meaningful? Would I get frustrated and angry at the loss of property or convenience or would I be satisfied with what I had? Would I start to appreciate the "little" things like electricity and dry roads?

As we stop trying to control what happens to us, we start finding the ability to control what happens from us. We realize that we can control how we live, how we speak to each other, how we appreciate what we have. We can control our response to whatever is sent our way.

In reality, that was only control we ever had. And by to trying to control everything else, we neglected it. We neglected being who we could be, who we really want to be.

Once we gain that control, even Hurricane Irene can't stop us.

August 29, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 8

(7) Lisa, October 21, 2012 5:05 AM's nice when we think we have it....

My young cousin died bc of that a flash that family's life changed .... Forever! We are so not in control...however we all live as if we are. And I think we always will.

(6) Bracha Goetz, August 30, 2011 9:39 PM

Thank you

for this clear and wonderfully insightful article!

(5) vivien fox, August 30, 2011 5:08 PM

Thanks for such a powerful example of how all we really are in control of is our response to situations and the choices we make. I try and live by the serenity prayer.

Such a powerful example of being in control of our responses and our choices.

(4) Ruth Housman, August 30, 2011 3:07 PM


In many communities the power went down, and where I live, we are still without power. Perhaps that IS the metaphor, being powerless, and yet, as you have written, taking power over what can be done, and how we can survive the storms in our lives, with positivity, and renewed strength. A storm that passes through gathers a lot of momentum, and there is this lull, or waiting period, that is heightened by the anticipation of something major. And so we button down the hatches, and do what we can do ensure safety. And then, we WAIT. It seems that after the storm there is a change in the weather as there was here, a kind of new breath of air, an autumn freshness right now. We draw in our breath in waiting, and then we exhale, and the world can be beautiful again as we rebuild what was broken,and work together. Storms are deeply bonding experiences, or can be. The metaphoric connects that go up and down our lives are enduring and do "hold water".

(3) Cynthia, August 30, 2011 2:06 PM


I agree with Mike Hashem is the only one in control and once we realize that our lives will change drastically. this is a very good word about control.

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