Sunday, December 29, 2013
How old were you when you calmed down? Or maybe you haven’t calmed down yet. No worries; it’ll come along soon enough.
It’s an odd question, isn’t it, my asking you when you calmed down. I mean it in the best sense, just asking your age when you came to realize that you can’t change everything. And perhaps in some way accepting that you can’t change anything or anyone other than yourself.When did you finally realize that it was time to stop pushing as hard as you could against doors that were clearly marked “Pull to Open”? And then when you finally gave those doors a pull and they opened easily and you said “Ahhh….I should have known this years ago!” When was that?
Acceptance of one’s imperfections, of one’s fallibilities, of one’s inability to control the world is the entry point to adulthood. Not the adulthood of being age 21, or even age 31 or age 41, I suppose. Not the adulthood marked by boxes and pages on a calendar, but the adulthood of accepting one’s mortality and smallness. Not smallness in the sense of bad behavior and pettiness, but smallness in the universe. The smallness that causes you to do good things for those you care about rather than trying to save the world; and a faith that if everyone does small, good things the maybe the world will be better.It happened to me the first time when I was in my late 40s. In a flash I knew that I didn’t want to continue living on airplanes, chasing one business meeting after another at the cost of being apart from my family. I quit that day.
And it happens again every year after Christmas Day and before New Year’s Day. I resolve that I am not in control, and I accept that. I can’t fix every problem, but I can listen when loved ones share theirs. I can’t change the world, but I can change myself. I don’t need to be in the social register, or to go to the right parties with the right people. I don’t need to have the big house, the new cars, or the showy aspirational things.Accepting that one can’t have everything is the first step on the path to having the things that truly matter.