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What To Do When Your Book’s Paper is Stuck on a Ship

In life, in work, in relationships, we don’t like lack of control. We want everything to work according to the plan, and if it does not, we’re not sure how to move forward.

What do you get when you cross a global pandemic, a devastating hurricane, labor shortages, etc.? I’ve found that I really like the look of all the photos of colorful container ships we’ve been seeing a lot more of lately. 

While I really do like the photos of the colorful container ships that we’ve been seeing a lot lately, I’ve also gained an overall feeling of helplessness. How is it that plastics and paper manufacturing could transcend into the psyche of a person who is only indirectly affected by these barriers to the global economy? These changes forced me to take a step back and look at the corresponding delays and shortages in my own life, areas in which I felt I had lost control. 

As a writer, I continued writing. As a cat-owner, I continued to feed and talk to my cat about all   the world and pop cultural events, as usual. As a friend and as a colleague though, I watched myself take my hands off the reins. I felt that if I couldn’t be the best version of myself as a friend, as a student, as an employee, that I must retreat entirely—a scary thought.

One of my least favorite movies, Final Destination 3 (2006), contains a line of dialogue that I might never forget even as I try to put the whole movie franchise out of my mind forever. When the main character doesn’t want to get on the roller coaster about which she just had a premonition that all of her friends would die on, her friend says that “fear…comes from the feeling of having no control.” 

In life, in work, in relationships, we don’t like lack of control. We want everything to work according to the plan, and if it does not, we’re not sure how to move forward. If books are ready to send to print, but there is no paper, no glue, no binding available, then the books wait. The order of operations becomes stagnated as publishing deadlines are shimmied further down the line. We become frustrated without the in-the-moment demand that we are used to.

What can we do? I’m not about to suggest a solution to the decimation of the global supply chain, but I will nudge us toward a slight path of inner-peace-seeking. It is this: control the smallest, most mundane things about your day. Make your bed before you leave the house in the morning. Put the clean dishes away. Clear off the kitchen counter before going to bed. This may not have a direct impact on books or auto parts being made available to the public, but it might help us gain a sense of purpose, of right-now-ness, to move us forward. You might find that sometimes the very best way to maintain control is to relinquish it, almost entirely.

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