Years ago, while I was still substitute teaching instead of working the full time job I work now, I subbed as a paraprofessional in a class for behavioral middle school students. The class was tasked with an assignment that day to draw a fish bowl. On the inside of the fish bowl, the students were told to write what they knew they had control over. So many put things like their reactions, their decisions, their possessions, their feelings. Then, the teacher leading the activity asked them to think about the things that they could not control. Some of the students answered things like “the weather” and “how others perceive me.” These were written on the outside of the fish bowl.
The lesson stuck with me, even years later. When I was down with COVID-19 over this past Christmas, I created another version of my fishbowl, which still hangs over my desk. I posted it to Instagram a few weeks ago:
Like the Serenity Prayer (which was written, I have learned, by a theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr), this practice of realizing what one can control allows for courage to change what can be changed, serenity to accept what cannot be changed and the wisdom to learn and know the difference. There is a reason that the prayer has become the key prayer for 12-step-recovery programs and accepted by many.
It is what it is.
I use that phrase a great deal when I am faced with something I must accept and cannot change. Though some call that a defeatist attitude, I beg to differ. Knowing that there are some things I can’t change or can’t change RIGHT NOW allows me to devote energy to things I can change. I accept there are people who can’t seem to stand me (though I don’t always understand it). I accept there are belief systems and attitudes that people I hold dear have that I may not like. I accept that there is evil in the world I would rather not face. But I can change what I can change here and now in the hopes that sometime in the future, the world will be a better place.
I have to still learn the courage part to make changes…. though I am working on that.
Like Maya Angelou once penned:
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Sometimes, life is what it is. It is chaotic. It is messy. It is hard. There’s things that happen that are beyond my control, so why try to hold fast to control over them even when I know better. There are friends who suddenly and inexplicably just cut off contact with me. There are events that shake my world that I have no control over.
It is what it is.
I cannot change anyone’s mind or feelings. I cannot control what others might do or say anymore than I can change the course of a tornado as it ravishes a town. I cannot change the results of mistakes I made in the past, but I can control how I go on in the future and learn from them.
It is what it is.
It’s taken me forty some odd years of my life to reach this point in my story, where I don’t try to worry about how things will go. It’s a process I am still working on. After all, wisdom still evades me sometimes. But yet, I press on, writing this story called life as I write my stories for others to read. I continue to find the magic in the day, knowing that accepting that some things are what they are for a reason and learning what things I need to devote attention to so that they change.
Because life doesn’t always have to be what it appears to be.
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And as always, #writeyourownstory