Control is defined as “the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.” Many of us expend a great deal of energy in life trying to get it, maintain it, and not lose it. When we are not in control, we know it. Would you like to be the hockey puck or the hockey stick? For us in Florida, would you want to be the golf ball or the golf club? The puck and the golf ball are “in the game,” but neither one is in control.

Pilots have many things to manage and keep under control when making a flight. Bringing it down to earth, drivers of a vehicle have many things they can control, such as the route to take on a trip, the decision to stay within the speed limit or not, and when to leave and start the journey. One thing that is not in our control if you are a pilot, a sea captain, or the key driver on a family vacation, is the weather.

Weather is the one thing that we cannot control. It is consistently there, good or bad, and the only control we have over the situation is how we decide to deal with it.

Presently many have said our country is out of control and we have issues we need to “weather.” Events have been thrust upon us such as COVID-19, mandates of stay-at-home orders, closing of schools, and cancelling of events in our normal daily lives. After months have having COVID-19 controlling our lives and the resulting frustrations, add the death of George Floyd to a tense and frustrated society and you have the perfect storm. We are frustrated and angry because so much of what we are experiencing is out of our control. Using the hockey puck analogy, we have been “pucked” by events and situations we cannot control.

In my opinion, much of our current political vitriol and divide is based on what we feel we can’t control, and what we would want to happen. Things can’t change because opposite sides have dug in so deep. If you took folks from both extreme sides of the issues, put them in two separate rooms and asked them to make a list of the things they want, not point fingers or blame at the opposite side, but identify what needs to change to have a functioning society, I expect the lists would be pretty much the same. We need to start listening to each other and finding common ground. Doing that we would have much more control over the outcomes we all want.

I learned some important lessons from personal experience when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was angry, fearful, and didn’t know what the outcome would be. I had stage three going on four. I shut folks out, stood alone stoically, and I was going to beat it. I learned some hard lessons from my frustration and that was I was not in control of the cancer. It was there and I had to deal with it. What I could control was my own attitude, make the changes in life required as I went through chemo and radiation, and be willing to let others help. I needed others to help me get through it. I had to face the facts and reality of my situation.

We as a country are facing some of the similar issues. COVID-19 is here, it is not going away, and the infections are increasing regardless of wishful thinking and actions being taken because we have had enough of face masks and social distancing, and we want to get back to normal. We have racial tensions boiling over and we can’t and should not ignore it, but we need to find a way to deal with it and move to heal our wounds and find a future we all can live with.

Like the weather, COVID-19 and other issues are here. We can’t wish them away. The only thing we can control is how we deal with them. We need to consider the actions we take: will they produce a positive outcome?

One of the largest employers in Highlands County will be considering decisions over the summer that will have a significant impact on our community in August. The School Board oF Highlands County will be deciding how to bring students and staff safely back on the first scheduled day of school on Aug. 11th.

There is a great deal of pressure statewide and locally to reopen our schools. Some of the pressure is political and some practical. The important thing is to understand the difference. As I have said in previous columns, we have to make decisions based on facts and not emotions that come from frustration and fatigue. Whatever format and procedures are developed, we will need to be flexible and work together.

On a personal note, I’ll be taking some time away from the weekly column and will be back at the beginning of August. Thanks to those who have shared their comments and feelings about what I have written. I hope I have been able to provide some interesting information and some things to think about. Be safe, wear a mask, and be kind to each other.

John Rousch is the Director of the Highlands Aviation and Aerospace Academy, a community partnership between the School Board of Highlands County, the Sebring Regional Airport, EAA Chapter 1240, and Career Source Heartland, and other community groups supporting youth He can be reached at johnrousch73@gmail.com, call or text 863-273-0522