August 26th: The Serenity Prayer

“God, 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 had heard the Serenity prayer many times over the years but it became something that I said without thinking: More of a hum than any words with actual meaning.

While going through my divorce, I once again became more aware of its power.

I needed to accept the things I could not change.

I could not change my husband’s feelings. If he didn’t love me anymore… if he was unwilling to work on our relationship… if he was unwilling to be married… I could do nothing to change it.

I hated that I couldn’t change things.

I didn’t want to accept it.

I had to remind myself that accepting something didn’t mean that I had to like it.

It didn’t mean that I thought that what was happening was “just fine.”

It didn’t mean that I agreed with another person’s actions or decisions.

It didn’t mean that I condoned another person’s treatment of me.

It just meant that I had to accept life “as is.”

Good or bad.

Right or wrong.

Hurtful or helpful.

On that given day… on any given day… I had to accept that I could not change it.

I must accept it.

The only thing I could do was to work on myself; work on the things inside of me that kept me from being the happy, healthy, serene person that I wanted to be.

I found acceptance by fearlessly looking inside to see what I needed to work on, to be a better person not for my husband, but for myself.

I must remember, that by becoming aware of my need to accept things “as is” and by being willing to work on the one thing I can change, myself and my attitudes toward a particular situation, I can obtain the wisdom that will bring me my serenity.

“God, 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.” 

August 25th: Accepting “No.”

I have always had a hard time accepting the word, “No” as an answer.

As a child, I learned that if someone told you, “No,” if you pushed and pleaded long enough, you could usually get them to change their answer to a “Yes.”

There were no set boundaries or rules.

If you couldn’t get them to change their mind, then you went to the next person in the house, and begged and pleaded with them until they said “Yes.”

This was how my family operated.

You could always find someone to say “Yes” and get your way in the end, because no one took the time to openly communicate or agree upon anything.

So when my husband first said that he wanted a divorce, I didn’t take him seriously. Over the many years we had been together, we had both been able to turn an absolute “NO!” into a “Yes” If we just pushed each other long enough or hard enough.

I believed that if I could manipulate the situation just right… once again… I could get him to change his mind because, he had changed it so many times before.

I didn’t even stop to think if it was truly the right decision for me.

I just didn’t want to hear, “No.”

I didn’t want to accept his answer.

I spent months trying to change his mind until one day, we had a phone conversation that forever changed me.

I was trying to convince my husband to come back when he said, “I’m sorry but I just don’t have the ability to get over everything we’ve both been through. I’m so sorry but I can’t. My answer is no.”

It was the first time I truly heard a “No” in my life and accepted it.

There was something in the way he said it: a resolve in his voice, the way he had spoken it kindly.

I understood.

He was not available to me at this time.

He was not capable of giving me what I wanted or needed.

If a person says, “No” I need to respect their decision.

I have to remember that for whatever reason, it isn’t working for them and therefore, it isn’t going to work for me.

No matter how hard I push to get a different answer, that person will still feel the absolute “No” inside of them.

Do I want to spend the rest of my life with someone who feels “No” when I want them to feel “Yes?”

Is that the type of relationship I want to focus all of my time and energy on?

Next time, I will accept the “No” and realize that I may be standing in the way of my true “Yes.”

“Dear God, help me to accept things as they are. If someone doesn’t want to do something, guide me away from trying to force them into doing it.”

August 24th: Courage

I was scheduled to speak at a 12-step meeting on the day that I filed the papers for my divorce.

I was to tell my story and offer the group my experience, strength, and hope.

While driving to the meeting, I started questioning why I was going. I was so down. I felt that I had nothing to offer. What could I say that would inspire anyone?

I pulled into the parking lot and mustered up the courage to go inside and tell my story.

As I stood at the podium, I noticed people listening intently. I saw people smiling and acknowledging what I was saying. Some even nodded and cried.

When I was done, many of the people I had just spoken to came over to hug me and thank me for sharing. Each one told me warmly that I had helped them with a problem that was going on in their lives at the time.

As the members of the meeting left to go home, I noticed one woman hanging back, waiting to talk to me privately.

I walked over to her and took her hand in mine. She smiled at me and said, “You are so courageous. I am so thankful I was able to hear you speak tonight. You inspired me to be strong. I know that I can get through this.”

As I walked back out to my car and started to drive home, I realized that my story didn’t have to be a pretty one or a perfect one to inspire another.

All I needed was the courage to tell it.

The courage to walk through it.

The courage to share it.

Courage means, “Strength of mind to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

I had done that.

I was courageous.

“Dear God, help me to have courage in trying situations. Help me to withstand my problems and triumph over them by having strength of mind.”

August 23rd: Prioritites

Even though things hadn’t been great for me and my husband for quite awhile, I still missed having him around.

I didn’t have him to help the kids with their homework while I cooked.

Or pick my son up from music lessons while I folded the clothes.

I missed being able to call out to my husband for help and unfortunately, during our separation and divorce, we didn’t have the type of relationship where I could ask for his help.

I had heard of people being a better team after a break-up, but that wasn’t what was happening with us. We couldn’t even communicate at a civil level.

I felt so overwhelmed.

I felt so trapped.

I was left taking on the day-to-day responsibilities of our family and the strain was catching up to me. I didn’t know what to do. I had to let go of something or I knew I would end up in ill health.

I had to learn to reschedule and re-prioritize what was truly important.

For now, I might have to do a fast food dinner instead of cooking. If ordering out freed up my time so that I could get a task done that was weighing heavy on me, then it was worth it.

For now, I might have to let the house be messy so that I could help my son with his homework. What was a messy house compared to helping my child?

Once I started to prioritize, figuring out what I really wanted and needed to spend time on and what I could let go of for today, I started to feel better.

Maybe there would come a day when I could ask my husband for more help.

But for now, I could look at what needed to be done and decide what was truly important to accomplish. I could look at what could be left, and what needed to be tended to, and if I could separate the two, I would find peace in my decisions.

“Dear God, help me to see what is truly important. When I am feeling that there is too much to do and too little time, guide me to see what really needs to be done and what can be left until later.”

August 22nd: Maybe You’re Right

I once heard if you really don’t want to get into it with someone there are ways to stop the argument before it starts.

I first started practicing the “Maybe you’re right” rule at work. If I thought someone was trying to pick a fight with me, I would stop myself from reacting and say, “Maybe you’re right.”

If someone said something to me that I felt was a dig at my personality, I would calmly say, “Maybe you’re right.”

If they questioned my judgement in a certain situation, I said, “Maybe you’re right.”

By not reacting, and by taking a step back, I could look at what this person had said with a rational mind. I could see if what they said had any truth in it. If it did, I could approach the person later, in a better state of mind, and discuss their concerns.

If what they said didn’t “hold water,” if it was truly meant to just cause a reaction then, I had removed myself from the situation before it escalated into an argument.

I liked knowing that a person was unable to get the rise they may have expected from me and that I could choose not to lose my peace of mind, or my serenity by just saying a few simple words: Maybe you’re right.

After practicing this technique for awhile, I noticed that people at work, who had tried to get a reaction from me before, stopped baiting me because they were unable to get the “hoped for” result.

I also found, that the people who had honest concerns, respected me for the way I was able to keep a cool head, my calm way of thinking, and my ability to take a step back, and look at myself and my actions.

By using this phrase, “Maybe you’re right,” I took my personal feelings out of the situation and stayed rational.

I was able to bring an emotional situation a step down, instead of reacting and causing it to “step up.”

“Dear God, help me to take a step back when provoked. If I can calmly and rationally, distance myself from the situation, I can then see if I have a part in it. Taking a step back will give me time to see what I truly need to do.”

August 21st: Doing the Same Thing and Expecting Different Results

I had spent 17 years of my life with my husband.

In that time, we had acquired many habits both good and bad.

Our relationship had many hardships and because we had started off together so young, and with so few relationship “tools…” both being raised in dysfunctional alcoholic families, we didn’t do a very good job of navigating through them.

We fell into patterns of talking to each other in harsh tones, blaming, running away, and pushing each other’s buttons.

Even in the calm periods, the patterns we had learned prevailed.

We would try to be different but, we just weren’t.

When we both began working 12-step programs, I had high hopes that things would change. Some things did… but unfortunately… our root issues and our bad habits were still there.

During our divorce, the patterns continued.

It didn’t matter that we were separated. We couldn’t speak to each other without falling into our old ways.

It was horrible.

We had children together.

We would have to find a way to communicate in a true adult, loving, and kind manner.

We kept trying, but it always ended in a fight: nothing was different.

I was doing the same thing outside of my marriage that I had done inside of my marriage.

I could not change what my husband was doing.

I could not change what he was saying.

I could not change his behavior.

The only thing I could change was my attitude and my behavior.

If I kept doing the same thing and expecting different results, I was bound to fail.

I had not had a different result in one of our heated conversations in 17 years. Why would it be any different today?

I knew then that I could not get into these conversations with my husband any more. That for now, I had to learn not to engage. It was very difficult. I wanted to be in that old familiar pattern even if it was bad. I wanted to have contact with him and I wanted to believe that this time, the outcome would be different.

It couldn’t.

It wouldn’t until one of us changed our behavior.

I could only start with me.

Our children were old enough that they could contact their father on their own. I decided then and there, that for now, I would only contact him if there was an emergency, or a pressing child or financial issue. I had to take time away from him and work on changing my behavior.

So, what could I do differently in these conversations?

Well, I could start by not engaging, working on my communication skills, and for the time being, limiting my contact with him.

I knew that if I wanted it to be different, I would have to work to make it different.

Our communication skills would not change over night but if I was willing to work, to try handling this in a different way, over time, the results would be different and possibly better.

“Dear God, help me to stop doing the same things and expecting different results. Help me to change my part in the old behavior. Guide me to a new way which can then bring a positive result to my life.”

August 20th: The God Box

One day, while we were still together, my husband came home with a present for me: it was a cedar God box.
He told me that whenever I had worries, whenever I needed to let something go, I could write down whatever was bothering me, write a letter to God, and put it in the box.
I could give my problems over to God.
I liked the idea so I put all sorts of things inside of the box:
A picture of my two children.
One of my husband’s cigarettes in hopes that he would quit.
Letters to God asking for guidance and help on certain issues.
Once they were tucked away in my God box, I would forget about them.
One day, I sat on the bed and opened the box and looked back over the things I had put inside.
I found that many of the problems I had turned over to God, had been removed from my life.
I liked my God box.
I liked having a special place to put my notes to God.
I realized it didn’t matter what type of box it was.
It could have been a shoe box, a paper bag; any type of container would do.
The point was to have a special place to give my worries over to God.

“Dear God, help me to give my worries to you. Once I turn them over, guide me to let them go. Taking back a worry will not help me. It will only cause me to fret over something that can only be handled by you.”