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
The Serenity Prayer has always struck a chord within me. It sums up, succinctly, one of my core foundations. No, I haven’t found religion. (Though my mother has, and she’s praying for us every night now… which is not something I expected.) It’s just the whole concept of the uncontrollable, and how best to deal with it.
I like to have control over things. I want to make things happen, or at the very least know when they are happening. If there’s something going on that I have no control over, I’ll usually try to find a way to get control of it. If it’s something that no one has any control over, something that cannot be controlled, then I usually accept that whatever it does is what will happen, and I can’t help it. Maybe some examples are needed.
Cancer. Cancer is something that no one has any real control over. You can screen. You can treat. You can cut it out and hope you don’t leave a single cancer cell in there to start multiplying again. In the end, though, cancer is going to do what it wants. When her mammogram came back with a suspicious mass in it, there was nothing I could do about that. It would be whatever it was going to be, and no amount of worrying could change that. I tend to be dismissive of these types of things, because I see the worry as some sort of wasted energy. It makes me come across as cold, which is not my intention. One evening, in a timid whisper, she told me that she didn’t want it to be cancer. My response, which I meant to come across as light-hearted to maybe lift her mood a bit was, “Well, no one wants it to be cancer.” My delivery, though, was anything but humorous. Yes, I’m pragmatic. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t care. I absolutely didn’t want it to be cancer (and thankfully it wasn’t), I was terrified that I’d watch her wither and die from something I couldn’t do anything to help with, but I didn’t communicate that. Instead, I used (failed to use) humor as a shield. I tried to convince her to be pragmatic. What an asshole I
was am… telling an anxious person not to be anxious over something that could potentially end their life, someone who had watched loved ones die from cancer. It’d be like her telling me not to be depressed.
Plans. This is a tricky one, really. I like having plans, knowing what’s going on, when it’s going on, who is going to be involved. But I also don’t like doing things. It’s not that I hate doing things, I just hate stepping out of my comfort zone. Going to a new place is terrifying to me, whether it’s traveling somewhere or going to a new restaurant. What if I don’t like any of the local attractions at the destination? What if the food is terrible? There’s a mountain of what-ifs that crash down on me when trying something new or going somewhere unfamiliar. I don’t know if it’s neophobia or not, but I do not like trying new things. It’s a completely strange experience, and I feel like I have no control over the end result. So I try to go places I know. Eat foods I’ve ordered before. It’s frustrating to deal with me on these fronts.
This Separation. I have zero control over this. Yes, I can post daily updates here, and maybe she reads them. I can write a letter and leave it with her mail, and maybe she’ll read it. I can shout into the void and hope that I’m influencing things at least a little bit, but I’m probably not. She has all of the control right now, and rightfully so. I wouldn’t try to take any of that control away from her. The one thing I can say, though, is that this is probably the only uncontrollable situation I’ve been in where I’m not just writing it off and accepting whatever happens. I may have to accept an unhappy ending to it down the road, but I’m not going to give up. In the end, the only thing I have control of right now is me, and even that is tenuous.