I guess nothing’s bothering me this week. Of course, lots of things are wrong, but I can’t seem to get any of them to spill onto the page. I’m not sure if this is a sign that my soul is crushing under the weight of the world’s problems, or maybe a sign that I’m starting to accept it.
As I consider the word acceptance, I’m reminded of the stages of grief that we learned about in my high school “Death and Dying” course (thanks Mrs. Orth): Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Is it possible that I’ve already mourned the world long enough to accept it for face value? I’ve not quite reached middle age. Psychologically I’ve been forty since I was twelve, but is this really me accepting things? Let’s examine this grief a little closer.
Denial: That one left town a long time ago. I have a well formed knowledge of how cruel the world is. The first time I looked at a house for sale where the dogs were treated better than the children, I realized that I’d been denying that those houses existed. The children that had no clean clothes to wear and no clean sheets to sleep on didn’t exist in my world before that. I had been denying their existence. That denial ceased that day. From then on, I have lived in a world where neglected children didn’t live in the third world, but a few miles down the road. The same is true for the first time I realized one of my clients hosted orgies, or the first time I was propositioned for something illicit, or the first time I discovered a publicly respected person was a drug addict. With each epiphany my eyes were opened and the world I was left with was a little more cruel. So, I guess I’m past denial.
Anger: That’s a toughie. I’ve struggled with letting anger get the best of me most of my life. It’s easy for such an ugly world to rouse my righteous indignation. Anger at the status quo is what drives a lot of my writing. Injustice is a powerful motivator, and I use it to propel me to do things sometimes. I try to remind myself of Luke Skywalker being tempted by the Emperor to use anger as a dark power though. While anger is a town I drive through most days, I’m pretty sure I don’t live there.
Bargaining: Hmm… I strike bargains every day in business, but not with a higher power. I gave up on being able to change God’s mind on anything a long time ago. He knows and I do not. I’m good with that.
Depression: Some may be shocked at this one, but I’m really not depressed. I’m disappointed a lot of days (and I have that natural scowl that I was born with), but for the most part I’m hopeful that there will be a tomorrow and that it will bring something new. I can look back on almost every bad thing that’s happened in my life and see a reason for it, and those days were all followed by a tomorrow. I am a student of history, and that is a fact. Therefore, it would be illogical to be depressed about what tomorrow might bring when it too will be followed by something different. A friend reminds me frequently that I live a charmed life, so I have nothing to be depressed about anyway.
That only leaves us with Acceptance to consider. I’ve never been through any twelve-step programs, but I am familiar with Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer in which you ask God for acceptance of the things you cannot change, the courage to change what you can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I run short on courage a lot of days, and “if I claim to be a wise man it surely means that I don’t know.” -Kansas. Some days I run short on faith, hope, and charity too, but I’ve always had enough to get me through. I’ve told you before that a very cynical realtor once asked me if I was still “trying to save the world.” It was a purely business question and it was intended to infuriate me. It must’ve worked because seven years later it still gets my blood pumping. I guess the answer to that question from my current perspective would be, no. I’m looking at my life these days as just trying to get people into the lifeboats. The world is a loss. History has taught me that. Like a sinking ship that’s too far gone, I will no longer keep bailing. I will however try to help any of the survivors that I can. I’m straining the analogy at this point, but I set out on a voyage for brighter shores. I never intended to save the ship, so why bother? Even though I hadn’t planned on rowing the whole way in a lifeboat, so be it. The destination remains.