May 4, 2019
A Cul-de-Sac Life
I don't remember where I read the phrase, a cul-de-sac life, but I love it. Growing up in America, my family always aspired to live on a cul-de-sac. Not as fancy as the one pictured above, but still, a dead-end street.
Why? To help protect children from cars. The belief was that no one would drive into a cul-de-sac unless they lived there, and those folks would be watchful and careful of any kids playing or biking in the street.
Interestingly, as I think about it, none of the 14 different houses (Yep...that many) I lived in while growing up was on a cul-de-sac. Even so, none of us was ever injured, though sadly we did lose a dog to a car right in front of our home. Stickball and street hockey, dodgeball, or playing catch happened whenever we could find the time. A car came down the street, we moved out of the way until it was safe, and then resumed our activities.
The image of a cul-de-sac is one I hadn't really thought about until I read that sentence. It could be a powerful metaphor for how we sometimes approach life. Staying uninjured is a good thing. But, trying to protect ourselves from all trouble or things that can go bump in the night is a fool's errand.
Control is a myth. It is a falsehood we tell ourselves to feel better.
Yes, we have a major influence on how parts of our lives unfold. Good stewardship of our financial resources and paying attention to what we put into and how we care for our body can make big differences in the quality of our life. But, we have zero control over the genetic makeup that determines our lifespan, our likelihood of contracting a serious or fatal disease, or the financial decisions made by others that directly impact our personal bottom line.
We have a modicum of control over relationships. But, people can change in ways that put enough stress on things to shred seemingly solid ties. Children develop in ways we may not like, but at some point what each does is no longer under our influence.
All this isn't meant to paint a picture of doom and gloom, of a fate larger than us rolling the cosmic dice and determining our path. Instead it is a suggestion to accept what happens in the world to us is not so much controlled by anyone or anything, but by the rules of nature that were created when the universe was formed. What happens at a particular moment is the only thing that can happen based on all the factors at play.
The hurricane destroys a home because all the natural forces that affect weather and climate create a storm that could not do anything else than form and move the way it does. The cancer forms in a body because the genetics and environmental factors that exist must have that end result. There is no other way something different could occur. A child takes a path in life that seems to be counter to all we taught and hoped for. He or she is made up of so many moving parts that the end result is what it must be.
Actually, this way of thinking should bring comfort. There isn't a cosmic force that is angry at you so bad things happen. Everything that occurs, at every moment of time, can only occur in exactly that way based on the way the universe exists. You experience something, good or bad, because there is no other outcome possible with the combination of all the factors at that instant.
So, if trying to live in a safe cul-de-sac doesn't work, what are we supposed to do? Realize that good and bad, up and down, success and failure are "baked into" the design of the universe. Each will happen at a particular time and place because there is no other way the factors could have turned out.
What we can "control" is out attitude toward each of these momentary happenings: enjoy and smile when good happens, be upset when bad happens but don't take it personally. Get through it the best way you can, adjust, and keep moving forward. Don't take credit for all your good fortune, don't beat yourself up when the world seems to be against you. Because it is not. It just is the only way it can be.