God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.
My dad, whom I respect with every ounce of my being, had this hanging above our sink in the kitchen. I can still picture it on the wooden plaque with the creepy image of some saint that looked like a malnourished Santa, gazing angelically up into heaven with his palms squeezed together in desperation. My sis and I would do the dishes every night (my dad insisted that we didn’t need a dishwasher, despite our daily pleas, because we “already had two”) and I would look at it and wonder what the hell it really meant.
I wish I had a picture of it right now so I could show you. I also hope I remember it correctly. Maybe it was a picture of Jesus and I’m being super irreverent, calling the guy creepy. Oh, well. God’s forgiving.
Do you even realize how many times that prayer has gone through my head in the last eight years? You don’t… but I’m telling you, almost daily. Thank you, Dad, for hanging that thing there, even if it was a little creepy. It reminded us that it was beyond our control that we didn’t have a dishwasher and that it was our fate that we had to do the dishes everyday. So, we accepted it. Begrudgingly.
The plaque’s words did come back to influence us later in life, though. I won’t speak for my sis, but she will likely agree with this sentiment: Our lives would have things that happen that we could and could not control. Dad knew this. He experienced it himself, and he knew we would, too.
The word “accept” is a beautiful and often difficult thing, but I learned it early because of that plaque, and I practice it often. Once you accept something that you can’t change, it’s freeing to let go and figure out how to work with it as opposed to against it.
You know, like the situation I found myself in with Devon. The “I’m gay” thing. The thing that went against every fiber of my being as “wrong.” I worked through that one, which took me nearly a year and a half (and even then some). The peace I felt once I simply accepted our situation and that I couldn’t change him, only myself, was pretty indescribable.
Isn’t it interesting that a synonym for “serenity” is peace? Yeah, I thought that was pretty cool.
“Courage,” though? That’s a tough one. Blech. Sometimes it’s just easier to stay where you are, be it a mindset or an actual location. If you know something needs to change and you CAN change it, it can be a scary thing to take those first steps. What if you’re wrong? What if the outcome isn’t what you expect and you’re disappointed?
For me, it was: “What if Devon’s ‘lifestyle’ and my acceptance of it harms the kids?” Seriously. I really thought that way at one time. I don’t think that way now, as you already know if you know our story at all.
I had to have the courage to move forward on that. I had to trust that my acceptance would count for something: that the changes that would be coming would not be as horrible as my past thinking would imply.
Obviously, things have worked out beautifully. I’m in love with my family, my Rainbow Family, and things rock. You already know what my kids are like. Awesome, of course.
“Wisdom”? Some say it comes with age. I agree. Wisdom develops and we can apply it more and more to what life brings us, like understanding the things we can change and the things we cannot.
I couldn’t change my cancer. (Stupid Crusty the Colon, may you forever rest in hell.) I accepted it, fought it (‘cuz that was my choice) and I kicked it’s ass (thanks to that glorious derivative of Mustard Gas, steroids and anti-depressants). The wisdom to know what I could change and what I couldn’t came in pretty dang handy when I heard the “C-Word.”
What situation are you in? If you’re reading our blog and found us under the search term “amicable divorce,” then you’ve probably done some praying, pleading and crying. Maybe you’ve prayed, “Lord, change her.” Or maybe even, “Lord, take this away.”
How ’bout you start praying: “Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”? I don’t know how it will help you in your situation, but it certainly can’t hurt you.
So, thank you, Dad, for your penchant for creepy pictures and beautifully worded prayers. Not only do I think of those words everyday, but I think of you.
I’m about to load my dishwasher right now, and I’m giggling, picturing Sis and me on stools, washing and drying those plates. Yep. Changed that one. Score one for the dishwasher.