Since BP is "refusing to confirm the widespread reports" that CEO Tony Hayward is just about to be fired, I assume he will be out by the end of the day (if you get up in the morning and find your employer is refusing to confirm reports that you are on the way out, start removing passives from your resume, because you're already toast). Hayward is the man who incautiously said to the press that no one wanted the oil spill cleaned up more than he did: "I want my life back", he said, disastrously misjudging America's attitude toward the ecological catastrophe his company had wrought. And from the hour of that incautiously casual and selfish remark onward, he was toast. But I find myself wondering: whose remark was it, originally?
I want my life back feels to me like a recent coinage by somebody. (Of course, I could be wrong; I am reporting a mere intuition, which could be solely due to the recency illusion.) It is not a normal sort of phrase. When you lend something to a neighbour and need to have it under your control again, you can go and ask for its return: "I want my lawnmower back." Everybody uses phrases like that. But they use them about things you can lend or give or buy or steal. Your life doesn't have that property. It's yours in a deeper way: no one else can have it, so there's no serious literal sense in which anyone can give it back to you.
Linguists have a term for this second kind of ownership: inalienable possession. And many languages have a different grammar for expressing inalienable possession as opposed to the ordinary alienable possession that applies to lawnmowers and cups and Dan Brown novels. French is one such language. The French for "to save his life" is pour lui sauver la vie ("for to-him to-save the life"), not (as a beginning Anglophone learner might have thought) *pour sauver sa vie ("for to-save his life"). The French for "costs him his life" is lui coûte la vie ("to-him costs the life"), not *(lui) coûte sa vie ("to-him costs his life"). French doesn't treat having a life like having a lawnmower, grammatically.
That image of having your life just taken away by the swirl of events, as if the general public had come to your house and taken away your lawnmower, is a vivid and original one — or was once, I suspect not too long ago, before it became a bland cliché about events having made things too busy and hectic for you.
So when was "I want my life back" coined? I don't know. Ben Zimmer is the Language Logger who's best at doing these phrase-dating things. John McWhorter and Mark Liberman are pretty good at it too. Perhaps they will chime in. But you readers could get in earlier if you think you have an answer for me. Like my mind, the comments area is open.