I remember a particular time period when I was in junior high that my parents were trying to make a difficult decision for our family. They were involved in a larger conflict that was tearing apart a group of people for which they cared a great deal. The question really became whether they were to stay in the situation and ‘fight it out’, or whether it was the right time to step out and away from the conflict altogether. It consumed many months of consideration and prayer. I remember hearing Mom discussing it with close friends and family on the phone, so it made an impact on my world. Then one day, in the midst of all the unanswered questions, Mom read a quote that deeply affected her thinking. She shared it with our family of four, with her sisters on the phone, and with friends within the conflict. The quote read: “We cannot change the wind, but we can adjust our sails.” Mom felt this was a strong signal as to what direction we should take. It resonated with my parents in the kind of impactful way that involved many discussions and is still readily accessible to me, these many years later. In fact, if asked what quotation I would most associate with my mother, I would probably name this particular quote.
I was busy around my house on Wednesday morning and had forgotten I’d turned the sound off on my cellphone the previous night when flitting around the internet while Scott slept peacefully next to me. I didn’t want any beeps or videos to pop up and wake him. As a result, I missed a few texts and phonecalls before I noticed the volume was off. I sat down to send a text and noticed my mother-in-law had left me a voicemail.
It will always be an intriguing query for me to wonder how my mother and my mother-in-law would get along. Their lives missed each other by a few months. If I were to actually sit down and calculate it, it was probably more like a few weeks. My mother died, a victim of Alzheimer’s, just as I was meeting my future mother-in-law, Joanne. Mom was 5’3″. Joanne is 6’2″. But both women were, and are, strong, independent women. I think they would understand many things about each other…but I can only guesstimate at this point since their meeting was never to be.
I clicked the voicemail button on my phone and Joanne’s strong and upbeat voice message greeted me: “Hey!, I forgot to tell you something. When we were in Arkansas last weekend I saw a quote you might be able to do something with. You’ve probably already heard it, but I really liked it.” I listened…Joanne often sends me clever phrases knowing I would probably like handlettering them onto something. The voicemail continued. “It went like this: ‘We cannot change the wind, but we can adjust our sails.’ It might be cute with a sailboat or something. Okay!, talk to you later.” And the phone went silent.
It is difficult to articulate the wash of emotion that spontaneously swept over me. I am not an instantaneous crier. But the emotion caught in my throat and immediately turned to tears. However, not tears of sadness or remorse in any way. I explained to Scott later that night that it felt like a cosmic collision of two women who represent mom figures in my life. Two women who never met but whose words were now the same. The same meaningful empact from this quote of perseverance and perspective. Words gifted to me from two mothers, 40 years apart.
I am not a watercolor artist. I am a watercolor admirer. Yet the desire to pour those thoughts and emotions onto the page led me to some watercolor ‘messing around’ this morning.
There are just some things in life that cannot be changed. They are deadlocked and irreversible for the time being or for all eternity. It is a waste of energy to spend time fretting or foolishly digging our heels in for change – it simply will not happen. But what we are capable of doing is changing our course of direction. Or sometimes, merely our perspective.
We cannot change the wind. But we can adjust our sails.
I have it on good authority that this short piece of advice can be life-altering.
In my life, however, it has been doubly Mom Approved…