A Tale of Free Will VS Fate
In this open column submission, Asiila Kamilia writes about letting go and accepting when things don’t go as planned.
Words by Whiteboard Journal
I was born a natural planner and somewhat a control freak. Vacations, relationships, or a weekend out. A simple getaway to Bandung? I’ll have my bags packed within a week prior. Don’t get me started with itineraries; I can give you a detailed schedule with the estimated time, locations, mileage, entrance fee, suitable outfit, specific items to bring (like an umbrella/poncho in the rainy season or mosquito repellent/plasters when going on a hike), collections of photos from the internet for decent visualization of what the place looks like, to website URL for further reading if necessary. Sometimes it’s fun — especially when planning a getaway or vacation. If you see me packing things up long before the departure date, you can say I’m very excited about the trip. This is because planning things, to the detailed bits, provides me with a sense of security that I’ve always yearned for; to know what I’m going to encounter and be prepared for it. It’s about expecting the potential unexpectedness if this even makes any sense at all. I’ve learned that such attitude stems from rather severe anxiety and past trauma when things were unpredictable and mostly out of my control back then, so now I prefer to have everything planned and prepare for what, how, and when things are going to happen.
But other times… it’s tiring. The weight of the worry is huge to carry. Sometimes you over-plan and obsess over the smallest details. When things get out of your hands and go wrong, you get panicked, stressed, angry, disappointed, and confused all at once. These emotions may eventually lead to feeling like a failure, thinking like you haven’t done enough, and could trigger other insecurities. In worst cases, it may also end in breakdowns. I’ve had moments where things were carefully planned but they could somehow go wrong in ways I never anticipated and beyond my power. This is also known as Murphy’s Law to which I’ve known for seven years but have just started to apply it now — like really, this exact moment as I’m writing this. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, which is mainly what the adage is all about. This happens when the unexpected occurs and things don’t go according to plan; they can be a miscalculation from a probability or something that is not even on the calculation and approximation from the first place – the unimaginable ones. For a control freak that is me, Murphy’s Law is frightening as it could be haunting whenever I’m making plans or in charge of a certain task.
Being both a planner and control freak for years unconsciously forces me to dwell too much on being anxious and it takes the joy out of life. When everything goes well, I only say, “It is supposed to go that way. It’s been prepared after all.” Although in some cases I do take my time to reflect and be grateful when things are right, the situation tends to get more tense when things go sideways. I‘ll go crazy looking for reasons, any kind of loopholes in my plans, and continuously blame myself. The amount of pressure I put myself in is alarming and needs to be balanced with gratitude and self-appreciation.
But, hey. This satirical statement seems to set on the pessimistic and bleak side of life. We also have to know that everything that can go right will go right but Murphy’s Law makes us overlook those moments when the universe magically aligns with our plans. Sunny days on the beach, clear cotton candy sunset for a photo hunting session, a friendly and helpful shopkeeper when gift-shopping for a friend, further reduction for an item in your wish list, or the one thing that goes seamlessly perfect as planned.
There are many ways to treat this malady. From the readings and podcasts on the self-development section, I can conclude that a Bhante may suggest that you practice acceptance and learn that desire is one of, if not the sole, root causes of disappointment. Psychologist will give you steps on how to stop being controlling and ask you thought-provoking questions. She will tell you that there are things you just can’t control no matter how good you are or how meticulous your plan is. If you can’t change the situation, then change your perspective towards it. A therapist will assist you to work on your mindset; stop blaming yourself, start trusting others, and having faith in the process. Your friend will recommend you to just enjoy wherever the flow takes you to. While those are true and can be helpful, I guess I have found a cheat to Murphy’s Law. When unexpected things happen, we may not have any control over them, but we can control our reaction which makes us still in control of something, right? I’m not saying that I have liberated myself from the desire to control things, but I’m beginning to learn to accept that things will go wrong, I may not know how but it will. By applying this state of mind, I will still plan things like I always do, but I’ll keep Murphy’s Law at the back of my mind and think of it as mental preparation, a peculiar message of hope, and a kind alert. That way when things go south, I’ll just say that I have seen it coming and will decide what I can do from there.
I can’t say much and can’t guarantee if this will work out or not, but in any case, let’s give this a try. As my friend used to say this popular saying to me: let go and let God.