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.
~The Serenity Prayer
Twenty years ago, on an early Saturday morning, a group of women met at a church, held hands in an unbroken circle, and recited these words. I was among them. The experience was as powerful as it sounds.
As I struggle this week with my current circumstances and emotions, I am reminded of these words. In particular, the acceptance part.
Acceptance is not, I don’t think, something you achieve with a particular situation and then you are done with it. It is not an end result. It is ongoing. And it is hard.
Acceptance, for me, is living daily (one day, one moment, at a time sometimes) with a disappointment, somehow coming to terms with the fact that something is not how you wish it were, and it may never be. But you are not supposed to have regrets; you are supposed to acquire the “it is what it is” mentality. The problem for me is I have always had the mantra that “it is what is, but it will become what you make it.”
Letting things be feels like defeat to me. I always think, “what if I just…” even when I know I shouldn’t at the time. Perhaps that comes from my divergent thinking and creativity, that natural impulse to rework things, my interest in continuously reinventing the wheel. Perhaps that comes from my unquenched curiosity for knowing—needing evidence and confirmation and explanations beyond the surfaces for why things have to be the way they are: I always want to dig deeper, explore further. Perhaps that comes from my heart and soul, the high morals I govern myself by, the glass-like fragility beneath my (almost) impenetrable fortress: I simply want to give and receive love.
Perhaps acceptance for me is so hard because it is too closely related to the greatest source of sadness that always flows within me, way beneath the always-there public smile: my broken-record theme of being lost and alone in this life. That feeling that I’ve yet to find my place and yet to experience (reciprocated) romantic love is a gypsy-like wandering, a seemingly endless journey without any known destination: a long, long waiting game.
Acceptance to me is like that waiting. It’s not what you want but you have to keep going, get by, aspire to rise and thrive despite it, despite what you thought was essential to have in order to thrive. It’s waking up without presents or snow on Christmas morning every day of the year, but going on a treasure hunt to collect the little, hidden blessings and little pieces of evidence to keep believing in the magic. Just once, I wish (since I am not materialistic but obsessed with nature) in those Groundhog Days, I woke to the softly-falling snow outside, those big pure, white, intricate, delicate, beautiful flakes, and the only warm, loving body for me waiting by the fire (with the coffee made, of course). Just once, I wish… but acceptance means giving up those wishes. And what-ifs.
But you can’t get the serenity part, I guess, if you don’t give it up, in a sense. There is an explanation of insanity as doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. You know you’re doing it when people begin to tell you that your life is a broken record. Still, though, you keep trying to mend that record. The thing about a broken record, though, is it gets stuck on the same part of the same song. When that happens, you better hope it’s not a negative lyric because when you finally accept it will never play the same again, it will take a lot of new records to replace those broken lyrics that for too long lived and remain in your head…
Today is another long, hard day of acceptance for me. But I know the drill. And I’ll do it. Because it is what it is. And I can’t make anything more of it. Whether or not I can understand it, it’s out of my hands, no matter how long it stays in my heart.
Sometimes, giving up is the only way to begin. Again.
I rub my hand sentimentally across the vinyl, then take this record off the turntable and store it in the memory box. I place the player back up on the high, dusty shelf. I won’t give up music forever, but I need to again for a while…