A is for: Accept what you cannot change without becoming a victim

by on August 29, 2008
in general

There are two parts to this rule and neither is easy:

First, the accept what you cannot change part is something I have thought about ever since I was a young kid, and had the serenity prayer posted on the hallway wall of our house.  It was a pretty appropriate prayer for our house.  Three kids with CF was no picnic for my parents, nor for my healthy siblings.  Sometimes, I wonder if it was actually easier for the three of us who had the dang disease.  At least we didn’t feel guilty.

But it was always hard for me then, and occasionally still is, to parse out the difference between what was unchangeable and what was not.  Certainly, I can’t change my genotype.  But (being a nerd) I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about a phenomenon called “epigenetics.”  Basically, it negates much of what I learned at Stanford Medical School over 20 years ago.  We learned that a gene led to a protein, period.  One gene, one protein.  If the gene was messed up…well…I was a perfect example.

But epigenetics says no, a gene is a recipe, a code…nothing else.  How the recipe gets “cooked” depends very much on the cellular environment in which it resides.  Nutrition, oxidative stress, hormones, hydration, “good” stress such as exercise, social connections…the whole catastrophe…all heavily influence how genes eventually lead to a protein, and then how these proteins affect health.

Ok, I didn’t really consternate too much about epigenetics as a kid.  That’s a more recent development.  Back then, I just didn’t like the whole “wisdom to know the difference” thing.  How was I supposed to know?  Obviously, now I really KNOW I don’t have the wisdom to know the difference.  It seems to get more confusing as I get older.

Here is where I have ended up, though, and I have a real life example to illustrate my conclusions.  In an earlier post, I reported that my PFT’s have suddenly, and for no apparent reason, had taken a dive.  I just had them rechecked, and the results were the same.  So…let’s do the serenity thing:

“Accept what I cannot change.”  My lungs are not working as well as they did 6 months ago.  That’s just a fact.  I could get mad…or depressed..or anxious, or, the worst option, I could worry and wonder if I did something wrong?  I could review how I could have done things differently…maybe I should have noticed that I was coughing up more starting several weeks ago.  Notice that all of these things focus on looking back in time.  Anger results from comparing my current 60% to the 80-something% of March.  Depression results from looking at the drop from then to now, worry and anxiety results from wondering if I messed up somehow.  So for me, “accepting what I cannot change” means “forget the past”.  It’s over.  Done.

Part two of the serenity prayer, “change the things I can,” is covered in other parts of the acronym already described (Notice, Only, Take, Decide, Engage), and more will follow.  “Wisdom to know the difference?”…well, maybe it’s evolving as I type.  Who knows?

Now, for the second part of the rule (I just now decided these were rules because I don’t know what else to call them).  Don’t be a victim.  Why not?  I mean, all the books describe us as “victims of CF!”  Why can’t we be victims?

Because victims are not masters of their lives.  Victims have little say in what happens to them.  Victims accept no blame, but they also can’t claim any victory.  In short, victims are wimps.

That is why.

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2 Responses to “A is for: Accept what you cannot change without becoming a victim”
  1. Hi Julie,

    I am really enjoying reading your blog. Your friend, who I serve on a council with at Duke, Pam told me about your site.

    You’re amazing and such a good role model…for everybody!

    Thanks, also, for the shout-out.

    Much love to you,

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Hi — just a note to let you know how much I enjoy reading your posts. My partner has CF too, and had a lung tx in 2001; I am new to this “chronic illness” thing and your writing gives me a lot to think about. Thanks! I hope all is going well.

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