I’ve always loved the Serenity Prayer: “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 problem is I can never quite remember the words and I haven’t really internalized it. I need something much simpler. What I have come up with is this. I ask myself “What can I do NOW?”. When I’m faced with a problem I freak out until it’s fixed. I get this uneasy nagging feeling in the back of my mind that won’t go away until the problem is solved. I alternate between thinking about the past; what I could have done or should have done to prevent it, and the future; what can I do tomorrow to fix it or how bad will it get? Given the amount of effort it takes to just get through grief, I don’t have the mental energy to spend on this nonsense right now. So, it’s more important than ever I just focus on “What I do NOW?” This is the question I ask myself over and over as much as necessary. Not what can I do in the past- the answer to that is always nothing. Not what can I do in the future- because I can’t act in the future either. I can only act NOW.
An example, last night around 10:30 PM the phone rings. The phone ringing at 10:30 is never good news. It happens to be Kayla. She is out getting food and the car has just stopped at an intersection. It’s completely dead. I immediately go back in time to all of the issues I had with the car this past fall. It was in and out of the shop three times. Finally I took it to the dealer and I had a new alternator put in it. The battery was pretty much brand new. It should have been good to go I think. What else could have done? I’m focused in the past. I snap myself back to the present. Kayla is OK. Probably a little scared, but she’s OK. I need to be grateful for that. So, I ask, What can I do NOW? We instruct her to call the insurance company and ask for a tow. We start looking for auto repair shops in Toledo (thank God for the Internet). The police come and help Kayla push the car into a parking lot. She’s with her boyfriend, so they leave the two of them there. We find the Lexus dealer in Toledo and give Kayla instructions to have the car towed there. Tywana and I sit.
What can I do NOW? The idea of driving to Toledo comes to mind. That’s silly. It’s a three hour drive. Nope I cant’ be there for her. She’s 19 and she lives three hours away. So, I set that aside. We’ve done all we can do for now, so we go back to watching television and wait for Kayla to call us to tell us the tow truck has arrived. Now my mind turns to Kayla’s stress level. She’s dealing with enough. She has finals next week. She’s supposed to drive home on Wednesday. I know she’s going to be stressed about this. The last thing she needs is more stress in her life right now. I start to stress about her stressing. Then, I think of Tywana. She’s supposed to run in the Flying Pig in the morning. She really needs her sleep. She does not function well without it. She’s already supposed to be up three hours earlier than normal for her. How is she going to function? She’ll never be able to sleep until she knows Kayla is safe. So, I stress out over Kayla stressing out and I’m worried that Tywana’s not going to get enough sleep and knowing she’s already counting the hours till morning. Wait a minute. I catch myself. Me stressing over Kayla stressing doesn’t help Kayla. Me worrying about Tywana’s sleep doesn’t help Tywana. Stop it! What can I do NOW? Worrying isn’t doing. Stressing isn’t doing. I set both aside and go back to watching television.
The tow truck is supposed to take nearly an hour to arrive. We’re not happy about that. My thoughts now turn to the future. What is wrong with this car? Should we just trade it in and get another car for Kayla? Will the service department be open on Saturday? How much will it cost to fix it? If it’s the alternator (which I just had replaced), will the dealership here cover the cost? If we have to buy a new car, that’s lot of money. We just laid out tens of thousands for new product inventory. We just bought a car for Tywana two weeks ago. This wasn’t in the plan. I’m way ahead of myself. First, get out of the past. The money spent is gone. There’s no need to rehash that. Second, if we do have to buy another car (which I don’t know), we just do. And I won’t know until Monday at the earliest, three days away. I’m not going to torture myself between now and then.
11 o’clock rolls around. Time for bed. We both know we’re not going to sleep until we know Kayla is back at her dorm. We turn in and read. 11:30 rolls around. No word from Kayla yet. We call the towing company. The guy says he’s just arriving but he doesn’t see Kayla. We call Kayla. The address the insurance company gave him was 5400 W. Central Avenue. On a three way call with Kayla we figure out she’s at 3400 W. Central Avenue. We get some landmarks around her and pass them to the towing company. Finally, they arrive, Kayla texts us and we know she’s on the way back to her dorm. She texts us again when she gets to the dorm. Ahh…she’s safe. We can sleep. We turn off the lights and are drifting off to sleep when the phone rings again. It’s Kayla. She’s left her wallet in the car. OK…. What can I do NOW (from where I am)? Nothing. Kayla, you’ll just have to get by until we can talk to the dealer tomorrow. Good night. Lights out and I sleep like a baby. Tomorrow, I’ll figure out what I can do then.