The Illusion of Control

Photo by Estee Janssens

Even during her dementia years, one of my mom’s favorite expressions was, “I think everything’s under control.” Indeed, she spend most of her life making a valiant effort to control the future by planning for it. An inveterate list-maker who reveled in calendar scheduling, she was the only person I knew who had her holiday shopping completed in October.

Sadly, my mom, one of the sharpest and most organized people I’ve ever known, hadn’t counted on getting dementia and later dying at the end of 2019. And how could we have predicted that this past year, a global pandemic could so completely disrupt our lives and tragically, end far too many of them?

As I flipped through my 2020 engagement calendar to transfer family and friend birthdays to my calendar for the coming year, I was startled to come face-to-face with all the things I’d planned on that simply didn’t happen! My beloved mother’s memorial service planned for May? Nope. Those spring presentations I was supposed to give on “Culturally Responsive Teaching” and “The History of Young Adult Literature”? Off the table. A book signing at the Fleming County Library? Cancelled, as were my favorite mystery writing conferences, Malice Domestic and Killer Nashville.  Worst of all was the loss of the visits with grandkids whom I haven’t gotten to hug for months and months.

It hasn’t all been bad, of course. Being together 24/7 has drawn me even closer to my amazing husband. And I’ve had lots more time to write—enough to finish one novel and write another.

But it certainly wasn’t the year I’d planned on or hoped for. And my heart hurts for the millions of folks who’ve lost dear family members and friends, jobs, and homes in the wake of this terrible disease.

If I’ve learned anything from this past year, it’s that control over our lives is an illusion. All we can do is to respond in the most constructive, loving way possible to events that occur with or without our permission. I suppose that’s why John Lennon’s statement that “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans” remains my favorite mantra.





  1. Steffie Salter Kyte on January 3, 2021 at 3:41 pm

    I agree, Lynn. Control is just an illusion. None of us is really in control of our lives. But 2020 has taught us
    many alternatives to our assumptions and expectations. And some of what we have learned has helped to get us through this dark time. Thank you for pointing out things we might have overlooked had the year been different. And congratulations on finishing one book and writing another!

    • Lynn Slaughter on January 3, 2021 at 3:46 pm

      Thanks, Steffie. Yes, I do think 2020 challenged us and made us grow in different ways– but what a cost for so many. I wish you a beautiful New Year!

  2. Barbara Hood on January 3, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    Thanks Lynn! 2020 was a year of mislaid plans but we are grateful for many things. Can’t believe all the things you manage to accomplish! You are an inspiration. Thanks for your friendship.

  3. Lynn Doreen Slaughter on January 3, 2021 at 5:05 pm

    Thank you so much, Barb. I miss seeing you! Have a wonderful New Year! It’s got to be better than what we’ve just gone through!

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