A Lesson from the Serenity Prayer
Over the past few months many challenges, or opportunities some might say, have visited me and my family. Trying to navigate it all and stay relatively sane seemed almost impossible. Sifting through the lip-service to find real assistance/support felt like learning a new language. The only thing I knew was that I needed to maintain some sense of myself while standing smack dab in the middle of the eye of the storm and let go of my white-knuckle grip on everything I did not have control over. Reining in my monkey mind of catastrophizing every little thing that came into my orbit was the worst of it. What if this…what if that…it was never ending.
I’m not a religious person. By this I mean I don’t attach myself to any organized religion or dogma. However, I do believe in a sense of oneness and connection to spirit/source which is at the heart of almost all religious belief systems if you take the time to learn about them. In this context it means I am only responsible for me and my response to anything that crosses my path, whether it’s a stolen catalytic convert from my car or a cancer diagnosis.
This is not to say that responding to the initial shock isn’t real and should be ignored. I am, after all, human and am subject to the full range of feelings and emotions we are all gifted with at birth. But, and I emphasize this, the difference between the initial shock or trauma and my death grip on it turning it into a source of fear and self-imposed victimhood is as different as night and day. I felt like some manacle force had stripped me of control of my world and all I could do was beat my chest over the injustice of it all and how put upon I’ve become forced to endure what others’ imposed upon me rather than me exerting my desires and how I thought things should go and throwing intermittent temper tantrums when things yet again didn’t go my way. Rather than allowing the experts to inform me, make the necessary decisions and do all that darn paperwork that must be done behind the scenes (mostly insurance clearances and appointment scheduling etc.) I would rant and rave demanding action. And not just any action, but the kind of action I wanted. My life was totally disrupted, upended, in a shambles and I was desperate to claim some sort of control of it and was failing miserably.
Before I went completely around the bend, I absolutely needed to get a grip on myself. I went through more chamomile tea than any person should consume in a 6-month period, meditation, and enrolling myself in an online puppet making master class with Bernd Ogrodnik. Learning to work with wood, if you’ve never done it before, is a painstaking experience in patience, forgiveness, and acceptance. You’ll eventually create some delightful puppets, but this is about the learning process and accepting what you can control and understanding and working with what you cannot control. Very similar to the weather.
Once I realized I wasn’t doing myself any favors by pushing back at the reality that faced me, I had to think about what exactly I had control over and what I could do for myself. And yes, sometimes this meant getting up into someone’s face when I realized I was being put off, ignored, or treated as a number rather than someone who also had places to go and things to do. I had to keep in mind what I did have control over and be that strong advocate for me. But I also had to continuously keep in mind what I did not have control over. This last part is still problematic for me but dropping my shoulders and breathing helps.
Being proactive on those things I can control, like following up with appointments, gathering useful information that helps me understand what I’m dealing with, instead of scaring myself, help me calm down and get better clarity of what I can and can’t do to move things along. Lots of question asking—it helps to write that stuff down before you make the phone calls or meet someone face to face. I also must remind myself that I’m not the expert but can expect my concerns and changes in my life to absolutely be taken into account when major decisions are being made. As a result of letting go of what I have no real control over, I have been more creative and am beginning to understand more fully how this works to my benefit.
I was reminded over and over that reflecting on the Serenity Prayer would help me shift my perspective. I see that I am not surrendering myself to an outside being with a white beard sitting amongst the clouds, but as a channel of creative inspiration and converting it into my offering to the world. When we quiet our mind, we all have the capacity to be inspired and feel the urge to create what before that instant was only a thought.
Most people are familiar with only the first stanza of the prayer. Here is the full version:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, the sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
An Supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.
I create as an expression of my soul rather than from my physical environment.
Musings of a Doll Maker