Finding Wisdom to Change in The Serenity Prayer

June 30, 2011 by  
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Today I am thinking of Reinhold Niebuhr’s “Serenity Prayer”.  It is so brilliant.  It contains the formula for living a peaceful, content, and ever enlarging life. We do not control many of the things that come our way.  Good or bad.  We don’t control the time they happen in. But the thing we do control is acceptance without pity or anger towards ourselves and others.

The prayer tells us to accept with serenity the thing we cannot change.  In my case now, I can’t change my father being in the hospital for a month fighting for his life.  I can only offer love and support and know whatever happens, is part of living. So as I have done before I will accept and live the experience and turn it part of my life’s landscape and wisdom.

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Learning To Age

May 6, 2010 by  
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hosOne of the things I’m always sorry about is how few elder friends or elder family members we have around to share their wisdom and experience with us.

We all avoid age like it is the plague but the truth is; either we get old or we die.  So somehow we need to learn how to age.  But where are the stories about people in their 70s ,80s, 90s on television?  Or in the movies?  Or many of us socialize with older people? And how many of us can go to our parents for advice?

Most of my friends either treat their parents as children or never had or are about to have a meaningful friendship with their parents.

I’m close to my parents.  I also seek out making friends with older people because I want to know how to age.  I don’t want to be caught with my pants down when my time comes.

I know aging means accepting the physical changes that happen to us.  Sometimes it is not an easy process, especially for us women whose physical attributes are so cherished in our society.  So I bargain with life.  I let some of my youthful energy go in exchange for wisdom.  And I ask my older friends and my parents how to they do it.

My mom is always saying things like: “we all walk in the dark”, or “we have to be happy today”.  Hearing those words from a woman who just turned 79 years old carries more weight than from a woman in her 30s or 40s because she says it from experience.  And then she laughs and she’s always ready to do things.

When I spend time with her, I realize there is a way to age that does not give up on life.  It’s a way that recognizes the different phases and knows how to adapt.

As I see my parents walking still holding hands and loving each other after 51 years of marriage, I know love lives on if cared for by people.

I’m not saying I’m looking forward to aging but by talking and spending quality time with older people, I know life can still be great in our 70s, 80s and 90s.


An Apology To Grace

June 29, 2009 by  
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Grace Fulkerson was my neighbor and my landlord for many years. It has been some time since she passed, following a long battle with lung cancer.

 An Apology to Grace

Your girl Tracy came by today and I thought of you, how courageously you fought your fight against cancer. I don’t know at what point you realized you were in a no win situation, that there was no outcome left other than acceptance, but your undefeated demeanor rubbed off on the rest of us, made us feel better about things from one day to the next. When I think back on it, on the progression of that illness through your fading body, I remember imagining what you must have been seeing: the end of this whole thing moving right toward you. And somehow, remarkably, your big heart held ground, as though to ward it off, shining all the more brightly in the face of it.         

Chain smoking, lesbian drinker, lovable slacker, collector of knick-knack Americana, den mother to a small nest of rent control tenants, lifers all in this cozy commune of yours, you seemed as genuinely happy to have us residing here, as we were to be in on such a sweet deal.   

I miss the warmth you lent the place, the sense of being one of the characters in your watchful world; the vibe that went beyond the obligatory transactions that pass between landlord and tenant, that imparted our six unit complex on 20th Street with a communal kind of aura. That world has passed, and I feel its absence now.                                            

You were a landowner in desirable Santa Monica, CA. But beside all that you possessed real wealth. And it wasn’t in a fistful of rent checks.         It’s clear to me now, through the wisdom that hindsight sometimes really does allow, the miracle of gentle courage that was unfolding as I watched your body fade and your spirit rise over it. Its warmth is still floating around here somewhere.

I was pretty blind to all of this at the time. In the same way I’m often blind to the goodness inside myself – the very thing that the kindness in your eyes assured me was there. A relentless kindness that never wavered in the face of my dim appreciation for who you were, for what you were about, and of what you were imparting to me. So maybe the best way to honor you isn’t to make a limp apology, but to believe that the love you sent streaming my way came with an illuminating purpose. A reminder you served that there is something redeeming in my being that draws love to it, that is worthy of it; and you weren’t a naïve dope whose love had been tricked into shining my way.    

I’ll work on that Grace, I really will try to fully accept the gift you left here for me. I can’t plead that I didn’t have instructions for how to make use of it. The truth is that it’s been sitting around all this time, and I haven’t bothered to open it. The good thing though about love, is that it doesn’t go bad, its power doesn’t stop flowing, even when it has been buried deep in some crevasse of memory, and ignored for what seems like a long time. What’s a long time to something outside of time, that’s been spoken in a language that flows only one way – outward, from one soul to another. And because of this, goes on, on forever.