Serenity   8 comments

What did you want for birthday/Christmas that you never got and might be bitter about? Have you bought it for yourself?


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The Things I Cannot Change

I tried to comply with this question and couldn’t come up with anything I never got and am, or could be, bitter about. I know that sounds weird, but it’s a basic principle I subscribed to in early adulthood and have practiced for 40 years. I try to leave the past in the past. I even named a book series after this philosophy – What If…Wasn’t. That alternative past I might have liked better didn’t happen, so I ignore it and move on with reality. Oddly, this makes my present more tolerable.

What if didn’t happen, so why dwell on it?

My disappointments are rarely tied to monetary items anyway, so I couldn’t buy them for myself. Last year, our daughter blew us off for her birthday (12.21) and Christmas. Why? Who knows? Itinerate musicians tend not to pay attention to the calendar. But I missed hearing from her and I could let myself get bitter about it. But if she calls this year, I’ll forgive her for past indiscretions and never bring it up. I wouldn’t be bringing it up now except I needed a disappointment to discuss. That’s the second part of my philosophy, which plays a big part in the Delaney family in Transformation Project. After someone asks for forgiveness, they never bring it up again. You hear it often from the family members — You can’t change the past. Move on. Do better. You’re going to walk off a cliff looking over your shoulder.

My mother would always bring up things from 30 years ago and revisit it over and over again and I didn’t like living that way. It made for a ready-made topic of irritation and I saw that as destructive. It wasn’t even directed at me and I knew it was a fruitless way to live your life. As a young adult, I read this Amish writer who explained that the Amish impart grace to those who have hurt them by forgiving and never bringing up the hurts of the past. That seemed like a great way to live and I resolved to do it. If I’m telling stories about a difficult time in the past, I try to tell the funny ultimately uplifting story. When I’m arguing with my husband of three decades, I don’t bring up that time he did that, though I do remind him that if he wants to bang on me about something I did 30 years ago, I have a lot more ammunition I could launch at him. He usually settles down because he absolutely knows I do and he acknowledges that I have never used it. Nowadays I can just give him a look that says I’m about to break my rule and he shuts up because he’d rather I didn’t. Mostly, after I’ve forgiven it (whatever it is), I’ve been blessed to forget it (I could access it, but I have to work to bring it to mind), and when I don’t, I resolve to never use it.

A tribal ancestor, the Sachem Tarhe, described it as

“burying the hatchet under a tree.”

The North American Indians had a long tradition of burying hatchets as part of making peace treaties with other tribes and the Euro-Americans. The peace would hold for a little while, but always fell apart eventually. Tarhe, being both a renowned war chief and a grand Sachem, said past parties left the handles sticking out of the ground so it was easy to unbury the hatchet. He wanted to plant a tree of peace (the white pine) on top of the hatchet. You could get to that hatchet again, but it would be more hard work than it was really worth. History records the Wyandot and Shawnee never picked up arms against the American government following that particular treaty.

I try to bury the hatchet and plant a tree on top of it. For the most part, I am successful at imparting grace to those around me. And when I’m not (usually because the other person dug up the hatchet and used it against me) I don’t beat up on myself for not being perfect, although I will continue to strive for that bar.

I think my life is happier this way. Intentional grace to hurtful situations and people means I don’t have to waste energy retrodding paths that will never be resolved. Yeah, there are things that aren’t always lovely, but they don’t have to be a central part of my life. This leaves me free to change the things that I can address in the present and that makes all the difference.

And, no, it’s not as easy as it sounds. At first, it was hard. As with most things, it got easier with practice.

Merry Christmas.

Posted December 19, 2022 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

Tagged with , , , ,

8 responses to “Serenity

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  1. That’s a great philosophy, but sadly, it only works when both sides play by the same rules.


  2. A wonderful idea, the past is a different land and it’s seldom worth a visit in anger.


  3. You are so right, Lela. My own mother continually harked on from things that happened to her 70 years before. She was miserable most of her life. I have learned over the years that your philosophy is the correct one.


  4. I like this philosophy. @samanthabwriter from
    Balancing Act


    • It definitely makes my relationships less fraught. It’s hard to continue a today-argument into the past if you don’t allow yourself to unbury the hatchet. But I do have to warn my husband sometimes not to dig up the tree.


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