I’m reading Jan Silvious’ new book, Same Life New Story: Change Your Perspective to Change Your Life in which she shares a life mantra: “What-might-have-been does not exist, so don’t even go there.”
I shake my head in wonder…and envy. I spent my childhood, teen years, and much of my adulthood in my very own “Land of Make-believe,” a fantasy world in which I imagined and lived myriad “what-might-have-beens.” I’m exhausted at 44 because I poured so much time and energy into living so many “alternate lives” during my 20s and 30s!
This last weekend, I attended the memorial service for a favorite high school teacher. As friends and colleagues paid tribute to “Mr. B,” they recalled his favorite sayings. One phrase especially struck me: “What is, IS.”
Oh, how I have resisted this! How pessimistic, how fatalistic it’s always sounded to me! No, NO, NO! I will NOT accept things the way they are! I am Choleric, I make things happen, and I will make things change!
Of course, this translates to: I will make the people in my life change until they make me happy.
And the most frequent victim of my efforts has, sadly, been my husband. You know, the man I vowed to “love, honor, and cherish”…and then immediately attempted to “tweak, repair, and ultimately overhaul”!
But Mr. B experienced a peace with life that has eluded me. He was one of the most loving and giving people I’ve ever known, especially with struggling students. He always had a smile, regardless of how tired or obnoxious our 2nd period Pre-Calc class was being. He was a master at making do with what he had; when a Physics lab went south, he’d pull together wire, duct tape, and a spare penny and make it work.
Driving home from the memorial service, I pondered the day-to-day implications of discarding “what-might-have-been” thinking and embracing “What is, IS.”
I’ve spent years telling myself that refusing to accept “status quo” makes me idealistic and optimistic. But the simple truth is that chasing after what-might-have-beens has left me tired and grouchy. Perhaps there’s value to accepting “what is”, after all?
This scene from Apollo 13 came to mind:
Notice what does not happen? Nobody spends time (and certainly not days, weeks, or months!) bemoaning the life-threatening stupidity of having to deal with a square filter and a round filter.
Nobody even points out the obvious: “We wouldn’t even BE here right now trying to solve this problem if SOMEbody had thought ahead and made all filters square OR all filters round!”
Nobody sinks into victimhood, moaning, “I wish I’d never taken this job. I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t realize I’d have to deal with problems of this magnitude.”
What do they say?
“The people upstairs have handed us this one, and we gotta come through.”
“We gotta find a way to make this fit [with] this, using nothing but that.”
“Let’s get it organized.”
“Let’s build a filter!”
“Let’s get some coffee going, too, someone…”
Re-writing the dialogue a bit, I hear:
“The Man Upstairs has given us this life, and we’ve gotta come through.
We’ve gotta find a way to make you become one with me using nothing but what actually IS.
Let’s figure out who’s brought what to this relationship.
Let’s build a marriage!“
Of course, the “us” in “let’s” is far greater than just me and Daniel, no matter how “well-meaning” (my favorite phrase from Emerson Eggerichs) either of us may be.
In my optimistic, idealistic zeal to build my marriage, I chased after what-might-have-beens.
But what it really takes to “build a marriage” is accepting “What is, IS” and eagerly anticipating “what-God-is-doing.” (Click here to tweet this.)
(Getting some coffee going is a pretty good idea, too!)