The Things I Cannot Change

In my late 20s, I was introduced to the Serenity Prayer adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and similar 12-step groups, and attributed to Reinhold Niebuhr. You know the one …

“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

I’ve had a lot of opportunity over the last 50 years of my life to pray this prayer, to ponder it, to prove it, to break it down and analyze its parts, to eat, sleep and breathe it, to plead it, to share it, and to make it my own. It has been my mantra through a myriad of physical challenges and personal heartbreaks.

But that second line has always tripped me up a bit. I’m a Get-in-and-Get’er-Done, Let’s-Make-It-Happen, Be-The-Change-You-Want-To-See-in-The-World Kinda Gal. Give me a project and GET OUT OF THE WAY. Nothing is impossible, if you can believe it you can achieve it … yada yada yada …

Every once in a while, I have to extract myself from my crazy, on-the-go life and head off to my “home away from home” to re-fuel and wrap my head around the stuff I cannot change. A few years ago, my hubby and I renovated a cozy little cottage we call “Seamist” overlooking the Pacific Ocean, a short 20 minute drive from our home. The demands of our work make it difficult for us to take “real” vacations, so Seamist is our spur-of-the-moment getaway, and the place I often go to re-center my life. If the weather is amenable, I walk down to the beach, plant myself in the sand, and listen.

In the quiet moments that I spend in contemplation, I breathe through the process of accepting the things I cannot change. Over the years, I have accepted that I cannot make someone love me, and that I cannot protect my child from everything or spare her heartache. I have accepted my physical limitations and my losses. I have accepted grief, and change. Lots of it. And I have come to believe that the secret to life is twofold: the ability to accept change and loss, and the ability to move forward with gratitude.

I am grateful for second chances, and do-overs. For a chance to love and be loved by a truly beautiful man. For a home that is a haven for my family and a gathering place for my friends. I am thankful for my health and my mobility, and for the lessons in humility and surrender that I have learned through great suffering. It has deepened my character and given me a compassion and sensitivity to the suffering of others that I might never have experienced any other way. I am grateful for peace of mind and quiet confidence and an unwavering belief in the miraculous. It has given me courage to step into uncharted territory, to lead without a personal agenda, and share generously without worrying about how much it’s going to cost me.

There is a second part to the Serenity Prayer, something I didn’t know until my father passed away. I discovered it when I was writing his eulogy 11 years ago. It goes like this …

“Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.”

So I sit on the beach, with my toes in the warm pebbles, and work through the accepting of life “as it is, not as I would have it.” It’s not always an easy thing to do for this Get-in-and-gitter’done-kinda-gal!

And because I trust that He will make all things right, I surrender … and receive what I came for.

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