Like many good folks in recovery, I have a small plaque printed with the Serenity Prayer: “God, Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; Courage to change those we can; and Wisdom to know the difference.”
Unlike most, though, I’ve had it since my childhood. Unless you’re Drew Barrymore, you probably didn’t know the Serenity Prayer in elementary school. Why did I? It’s a funny thing, and thinking about it made me realize how many other coincides have happened in my life.
Recently I was lost in the mountains driving, of all things, my little sporty white car on a logging road. I was late, upset, scared, and confused but since my teenaged son was also in the car I did my best to only display minor bewilderment. We were trying to find the drop off spot for his 10-day out trip camp.
“Hmm, this is so strange – where can this place be?” I chirped as the voice inside my head swore like a trucker. I knew my son was already anxious about signing up for this demanding trip with an unfamiliar group. I felt badly for getting us lost and wanted to set a good example for how to behave under pressure.
I was pretty sure I was on the wrong road, but it was so narrow I couldn’t turnaround and besides, it seemed to make sense from the vague directions on my smart phone – directions I could no longer access because we were out of cell range. Had I known I’d be on such demanding terrain I would have brought my husband’s truck, not this city car of mine.
“Okay, God. We are lost here. Help us figure this out,” I said aloud, hoping to model a kind of calm desperation for my son as I inched my car up the narrow trail. The answer came swiftly, as around the next bend a fallen tree blocked the road.
“Well I guess that means turn around but how?” I was able to squeak past the tree and turn around, squeak past it again and head back down the trail – praying all the while no one else has been fool enough to make the same mistake. The trail was not built for two.
Moments later, we were back in cell range and called for directions. We soon arrived at the proper place.
Now, obviously I don’t believe God (or in AA-speak “my Higher Power”) dropped that tree the moment I asked for help. You might say it was divine inspiration that caused me to ask a question just ahead of the answer. You might say God (HP) knew I’d be praying that prayer in that spot days before and fell the tree in advance. You might say all kinds of things, including “Meh. Coincidence.”
Call it what you will, but sometimes we are able to look and see how the dots connected and say, “That was pretty darn sweet”.
Take, for example, the family up the street from our home many years ago. For whatever reason, I would run into these people no matter where I went with my (then small, now grown) children. These people would pull up next to me at a traffic light, we’d be shopping the grocery store in reverse orders so our paths would cross in every single aisle – I’d see them everywhere! And this family was hard to miss because the mom was terrifically stunning and her three children were adorable. Sometimes I’d see the husband, sometimes not. But what was both fascinating and irritating was the overwhelming sense that I KNEW them. I didn’t. I’d never seen them before, but it was that same tip-of-your-tongue experience as when you see a celebrity in person and you can’t quite remember the name. Then someone tells you and you’re still not sure – you have to look it up to be convinced, and your mind won’t settle off it until you do. Like that.
In fact, one day I was picking my kids up from school and the daughter from this family was walking past. She was about 9 years old.
“Sweetie, what’s your name?” I asked. She told me. It was a surname so foreign to be I asked her to repeat it twice and the spell it for me. Clearly these were not people I’d ever met.
The coincidences continued and one day I said to a friend, “It’s the strangest thing. I see these people everywhere and I feel so strongly that I know them but I don’t. It’s driving me crazy.”
“Oh,” she said knowingly. “God maybe wants you to pray for them. Whenever you run into them, just say a little prayer.”
At least that gave purpose to it, and it lessened that annoying-ness of the increasing coincidences. So there I’d be, in the grocery store, gassing up my car, picking up my kids, paying a parking ticket and there they’d be. “Oh seriously?! Now?? Oh alright, God bless this family and tend to whatever is going on here that You have to be bothering me with it right now. Amen.”
Irreverent, yes. But it did ease the curious irritation of the situation. Eventually I got to know the woman a bit, when we’d joined the same morning coffee group. I came to understand that she was in a very difficult marriage and under tremendous pressure. Later they divorced and they family moved away.
Can you guess what happen years later?
Wouldn’t you guess that my oldest boy would eventually meet that girl at a summer camp? Wouldn’t you know that after high school they began dating? Wouldn’t you guess they fell in love, got engaged, and are now happily married?
Wouldn’t you call it something of a miracle or a blessing or a coincident that I was praying for my future daughter-in-law since she was 9 years old?
In fact, their marriage was one of the many reasons I wanted to quit drinking – knowing that eventually there will be grandchildren in the picture and I don’t ever want them to be afraid to have be babysit for fear I’ll be snockered.
Back to the Serenity Prayer…
One of my uncles is a priest who would often send small gifts to my sisters, all of my cousins, and I. He must have bought church-y things in bulk and sent them out because we’d all get similar gifts for Christmas or Easter. There were 20-some of us on the list so this was a generous undertaking.
When I was 8 or so, he sent each of us a small wooden plaque with peg to make it stand. About the size of a business envelope, each plaque featured a different prayer or verse. Perhaps he sent them at random. Perhaps he considered which was most fitting for each child. I put mine on my nightstand and memorized the prayer – it was a good one, although I preferred saying the Lord’s Prayer before bed.
It was years before I learned that the simple prayer on that plaque was one famously associated with Alcoholics Anonymous:
“God, Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, Courage to change those we can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”
It is a prayer I have been familiar with almost all of my life now, yet here I am all these years later leaving alcohol behind me and understanding the importance of that prayer as never before.
Perhaps the divine goes before us and lays out all kinds of loving booby traps for us to stumble upon. Perhaps it’s all coincidence. No matter what you call it, you must admit it warms the heart to see how life unfolds and yet connects back.
Coincidence? Who knows? The serenity Prayer. I might be the other 9 year old who knew that prayer. I have always loved it and whenever someone would ask for my favourite saying or motto I would recite it. Funny I never thought of it in relation to MY drinking and yet I knew it from going to AA support meetings for the family of alcoholics. I feel I have just had an A-ha moment – everything just makes sense. Thank you.
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Wow-this post really struck me. First of all-Love the bubble hour-xoxo and love your blog. Just started reading it from the beginning and it all rings so true. I was a beer/cocktail drinker and pretty much drank on weekends and holidays etc. but still everything else so similar. I have two sons-not three, one is 24 the other is 21.they are my heart. Along with my husband of soon to be 25 years on this coming St. Patricks Day-Yes we are Irish and yes, twas quite the bash! I quit drinking 108 day ago and am doing it solo. My husband still drinks and pretty much everyone else I hang with-Tough stuff at times. The blogging world (Thank-you Belle for getting this ball-a -rollin)and the Bubble Hour have been my salvation. I say this in all honesty-I am not sure i am an alcoholic but doesn’t truly matter-Almost alcoholic? Problem drinker? who cares….I have tried moderating and leads me to the same cruel circle of guilt and shame.Why do have to be TOTALLY broken to admit defeat? I chose to get off the crazy train before it derailed:)
I wanted to comment on this particular post because I don’t always believe in Coincidence. this summer I lost a dear friend “T” to alcohol. I had known him since 5th grade and to tell the truth went many of years throughout H.S. with a sincere crush. He had many issues growing up and i truly believe struggled with depression his whole life of 51 years. He almost drank himself to death more than once but was “saved’ physically and eventually got a new liver. This past may he went off his anti rejection meds for the new liver.Yes, a waste of a second chance and perfectly good liver. That is a story for another day! Luckily,I was able to see him in hospice before he passed. well, Lucky I guess but painfully so.
Here was this beautiful, tortured soul squirming in his now EXTREMELY jaundiced skin and losing his mind. He passed while i was on vacation but i was able to attend the memorial. This leads me to Coincidence or not…..
The memorial was July 5th, the day after my brothers Big 4th of July party. To say i was a tad hungover and anxious About the whole thing is an understatement. I was kind of freaking out about running into all these old H.S. people and “T’s” drinking buddies i hadn’t seen in years..My sister and i proceeded to get totally lost on the way there.We both suck at directions. As we proceeded to waste time being lost and the memorial start time approached the more frazzled I became. To make matter worse my Emergency flashers started to go off for no particular reason and I couldn’t turn them off. We pulled into a Church(I know-fitting) parking lot to call my brother and friend, both already at the service. No luck.
Meanwhile, we take another wrong turn and my flashers go off again. At this point I am yelling at my friend”T” and swearing at him that he better think this is ‘F-ing” funny because i was about to lose it. Well, we stopped for directions-TWICE and by the second time, a calm came over us and the flashers went off and my sister and I decided that we would make it to the service-late but we would eventually get there and we did!
Here is the clincher. all those drinking buddies and High school friends I thought would be there-Weren’t !. Very few friends came. it actually made me very sad and a tad bit pissed off.
My sister and I are truly convinced that “T” was guiding us to his memorial and really wanting us to be there. I had put on thousands of mile prior to that drive and after that drive and i have NEVER had my flashers go off unexplained. Shit-I had to look the next day in my car how to even turn them ‘On” let alone “off”. Coincidence? Maybe. But i will always believe “T” needed, people who knew loved and missed him there.
Wow – this story gives me goosebumps. I agree – no coincidence there. I think T will be your Guardian Angel of Sobriety – cheering for you from beyond and grateful you are living your life fully and free of alcohol – conquering the enemy in a way he could not do for himself.
I agree totally with your emphasizing that is doesn’t matter whether one thinks they are a true alcoholic or not. There are so many different types of drinking patterns and dangerous symptoms. Some I have, others I don’t. But I know I’m an awful lot better off not drinking at all than pretending I can successfully manage the two-drink limit routine forever. For me, it’s just a set-up for failure sometime, somewhere. Alcoholic, abuser of alcohol, problem drinker…whatever you want to call me, sobriety is the key to my success and happiness. I’ve already paid enough prices, and that’s no coincidence!
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Hi, liking a lot of your entries and can relate to many, although as an atheist I think people should give more credit to themselves and those who support them for their recovery, than a god or higher powers. But each to their own and whatever works for you I suppose 🙂
Wow-what a great post! What a great story!
wondering where you are and hoping all is well
So kind of you to ask. Everything is good and I’m trying to sort out all the great experiences and lessons into a worthwhile blog entry. Sometimes it all swirls around in my head for a bit before it makes sense.
I’m hoping to write on Sunday over morning coffee.
LOVED!!!! this post. I believe in coincidence. 🙂
Loved your post and your two stories. Life often works in ways that are beyond our comprehension. Your story about your new daughter-in-law gave me goosebumps! That was truly amazing. Sometimes the messages are whispers, but when we listen, it can lead us down the right path.