It all began at a diner where I was having lunch with my boyfriend. I can't even remember what we were talking about, but somehow the conversation shifted to me complaining about being a single mom with not enough time and some other typical challenges that go along with being divorced.
All of a sudden, a light bulb went off in my head when I realized that I was whining about things I couldn't control, so I blurted out, "You know, I need to read that prayer, the one that says--'God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change...'" My boyfriend responded, "You mean the serenity prayer."
He then recited the whole prayer to me:
God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking as He did, this sinful world as it is
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all thing right if I surrender to his will,
That I may be reasonable happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next
I instantly got feelings of relief and peace. I felt like a huge burden had just been lifted off of me. I felt inspired and joyful and full of gratitude. I felt spiritual and free of negativity and toxic thoughts.
Being the journalist I am, I googled "Serenity prayer" the minute I walked in the door to find out more about it. I learned that the Serenity Prayer was written by the American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr. No one really knows when he wrote it, but it was printed in a few newspaper articles in the 1930's. In 1941, an early member of Alcoholics Anonymous brought it to a meeting. Well liked, the organization adopted the prayer and it is now part of AA and other 12-step programs.
I honestly think the serenity prayer should be read (I'm actually going to say daily) by newly separated men and women and here is why. Because one of the most difficult aspects of divorce is acceptance -- lack of control over what happened, lack of control of the other person, lack of control of the circumstances and lack of control of the past.
Think of all the men and women who are left by their spouses for another person. Think of all the men and women who get divorced because of addiction issues. Think of all the men and women who get divorced because of physical and/or mental abuse. These are all things WE CANNOT CONTROL, yet people refuse to accept that for a long time, and sadly, sometimes forever. And when someone can't/won't accept, they cannot find peace and move on in life.
On the contrary, when someone gets divorced, he or she has the ability to change certain things, to build a new life, to reinvent themselves. It's not easy. It takes courage, strength, determination and of course, patience, but it is in a person's control (to an extent.)
Living one day at a time, enjoying one day at a time...
Alcoholics in recovery seem to try to live each day being happy and enjoying life without drinking. Newly separated men and women could find more happiness and peace if they lived each day enjoying little things and not "drinking" bitterness, anger and resentment for an ex or for the past.
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace
Like an alcoholic must accept he or she cannot drink in order to find peace, a divorced person must accept the end of the marriage, the fact that what happened happened, and that the path to happiness down the road is long, difficult and takes immense strength and courage.
Even after years of being divorced, I sometimes complain, which basically means I do not have full acceptance. I'm not saying a person is never allowed to vent. But if you complain over and over again about the same things--my husband (or wife) left me, he/she is so happy with his new wife/husband, she's pregnant, I'm alone and he/she is happy, there's no justice, I'm poor and he/she just bought a new Porsche, etc. etc. it won't change anything. The only thing it will do is aggravate and depress you.
ACCEPTANCE is key in moving on and finding true happiness from within.
My recommendation for the newly separated is to read the serenity prayer every single day. Keep it by your desk or by your bed. When things seem dreary, it is so much better, more productive and more fulfilling to grab that little piece of paper and read it than to reach for a Xanax or a glass of wine, or call your girlfriends or family and start bitching to them.
Serenity is the state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. The more we are in that state, the happier and richer our lives will be. And isn't happiness and a meaningful life something every divorced person strives for?
Jackie Pilossoph is the author of her blog, Divorced Girl Smiling, and the comedic divorce novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase. She also writes feature stories, along with the weekly dating and relationships column, Love Essentially" for Chicago Tribune Media Group local publications. Pilossoph lives in Chicago. Oh, and she's divorced.
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