Lord, grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.” This verse, attributed to St Francis of Assisi and later adapted by the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, is now widely used by Alcoholics
Anonymous and other 12-step programmes, with the word ‘strength’ replaced by ‘serenity’ and called the Serenity Prayer. But you don’t need to be an alcoholic – or even a Catholic – to benefit from the sentiments expressed in this prayer.
All of us would be better off if we could see the difference between the things that we can change and those we can’t. And we would be much happier if we could make our peace with all the stuff that comes in the ‘can’t’ category. Because let’s face it, there are some things in life that none of us have any control over. And the sooner we come to terms with that fact, the more content we shall be.
So, what are the things you need to make your peace with? Allow me to list, in no particular order of importance, just some of them.
Some friendships will run their course
This is not anybody’s fault. It is just the way things are. Sometimes people grow apart for one reason or the other.
And when that happens, there is no point breaking your head over what went wrong.
Or even trying to recapture that lost intimacy. The only option is to accept the inevitable and move on without any bitterness or regret. Tell yourself that it was good while it lasted – and yes, that nothing lasts forever.
Your teenage kids will hate you
They will act as if your very presence is an embarrassment. They will fob off public displays of affection. They will treat your every pronouncement with derision.
They will spend ages in the bathroom, sulking and yes, hating you.
Until suddenly, one day, they won’t. They will want to hang out with you again, they will ask your advice and cuddles will once again be welcome.
Just stay the course. Normal service will be resumed soon.
You will turn into your parents
It is only a matter of time. It’s not just that one day you will look into the mirror and find your mother or father staring back at you (though that will happen as well). But that you will find yourself telling your kids the very things that your parents used to say to you (and which you swore you would never tell your kids). ‘Come home before it gets dark’. ‘Get up early and study’. ‘Wrap yourself warm before you go out’. ‘Eat something, for God’s sake’.
There will be more ‘doorway moments’ as you get older
If you are in your 40s, you probably know what I mean. Yes, the times you go through the doorway of your bedroom or living room looking for something. But the moment you cross the threshold, you forget what you were looking for. Recent research done by Professor Gabriel Radvansky of the University of Notre Dame has it that the act of passing through a doorway causes memory lapses. But we know different, don’t we? It’s the act of passing through several decades of our lives that really does the trick. You’ve just got to live with it.
The music of the day will begin to seem like senseless noise to you
And you will turn into the kind of music bore you always made fun of.
The sort who listens to the same bands and singers over and over again because he or she grew up with them.
As they don’t say, familiarity breeds contentment.
You will always have regrets
No matter what choices you make in life and no matter how right they seemed at the time, there will come a day when you start to wonder about the road not taken and whether you took a wrong turn along the way. Don’t freak out. This is a part of growing up and even – dare I say it? – growing old. And anyone who tells you otherwise is a lying sod.
From HT Brunch, February 9
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