The Five Things We Cannot Change

The process of sorting and tossing is bringing many gifts…One piece of paper that didn’t get tossed, is the copy of a chart from David Richo’s 2005 book The Five Things We Cannot Changeand the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them.

In my final issue of the Martha’s Musings bi-monthly newsletter just last week,  I expressed my angst and sadness about the world situation, the changes to which, in my 82nd year, I am finally awakening. Whether it be the climate disaster, the 750,000 lives lost to CoVid, immigration issues, law enforcement, justice not for all, education, the medical system, not much is working.   And the political polarization is severe.

Fortunately , David Richo’s “chart” brings the necessary framework if one seeks reassurance.   Not only is my grieving normal, it is necessary.  Somehow I have to face, not resist or deny, and let go. I must learn the personal lessons which will allow me to live in peace.

The five things we cannot change are familiar. And sometimes they happen all at once.

  • Things change and end. (Lots of things are changing and ending in my life as I suppose they are in yours, including my “hopes” for the future.) 
  • Things do not always go according to plan.  
  • Life is not always fair. 
  • Pain is a part of life. 
  • People are not loving and loyal all of the time.

Typically, we fear these things.  They are neither fun to anticipate nor to live through.

As I find myself masking that fear with stoicism, over planning to control, and blaming others,  I “up” my guard to protect myself from each of those pains in life.  Perhaps you do, too.

But Richo advises there is a way forward.  Certainly grieving is the first. I also must remind myself that you win some and you lose some.  And you need to allow the pain, say “ouch” without retaliating.   As Meg Wheatley, a long term leadership consultant has come to advise in these tough times, “While continuing to face some very serious national realities, we must find our bravery to work locally for justice.”

While I fear this sounds too neat as a package amidst my tears, I am starting to notice the newspaper articles and TV features which demonstrate local shifts in the right direction.  Our primarily Puerto Rican town has just elected a highly qualified and first Latinx mayor, Joshua Garcia. I anticipate good changes rippling out from that accomplishment due to the brave, insistent work of many, many people.

CBS 60-Minutes (11/21/21) featured the story of a psychology professor at YALE, expert in the science of racial profiling. Phillip Goff was challenged into bravery to deploy his expertise in a wider more effective way.  He co-founded the Center for Policing Equity, which is currently advising police departments to better allocate their resources to lower the incidence of community violence. The changes are showing demonstrated success. Thus some national models are being created locally.  See the NPR report on his work.

And so the journey continues.  The question remains for me, “Who am I choosing to be in these very tough times?”  

But first, I’ll grieve.

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