Serenity NOW!!! A shout from all of our souls at times, and assuredly desired, if not voiced, far more frequently over the past year. Of course the path to peace is hardly immediate, but the reflection shared below on the well-known serenity prayer suggests some changes in perspective that may help pave the way.
“One thing that has struck me during this year, as I have weathered fears of this pandemic, worries for my family, homeschooling teenagers and dealing with anxious and grieving clientele, has been the ever-increasing responsibilities and worries that come with working from my home and trying to keep myself…well… myself…as this seemingly endless crisis unfolds. One thing that has kept me, largely, sane during this time, has been reflection on the wisdom contained within the serenity prayer. All of it, sure, but specifically the first 4 lines:
God, grant me the Serenity
To accept the things I cannot change…
Courage to change the things I can,
And Wisdom to know the difference.
To understand how this has affected me, and how it has changed the ways in which I viewed myself and my life during this pandemic, it might be helpful to break down the components which have been most impactful.
Serenity: the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
What does that even mean right now as we have political upheaval, an invisible, yet persistent threat to all that we hold dear, and constant worries about work, money, family, and self? You name it, we fear for it. And yet, serenity is possible. HOW?
By accepting the things we cannot change.
As much as I would like to, I cannot change the fact that this pandemic exists. I cannot change the fact that it is an ever-present threat over the lives of those I know and love and those that I have yet to know and love. There is nothing I can do to change that. Focusing on my fear of dying or of my loved ones dying does nothing but keep me locked in a cycle of anxious worry and pain. Yes, I think about it. No, I do not dwell on it. And in those moments that I am not dwelling on the fear and stress brought on by this pandemic, I encounter something bordering on peace.
Courage to change the things I can
During this time, it feels like my work has increased tenfold. At the beginning, and sometimes still, I found myself working 12-hour days. So much to be done, no commute, no excuse. But, when I do that, the stress creeps up and begins to destroy that momentary sense of peace that I had worked so hard to foster. Then, I remember, I need to have courage to change the things that I can. So instead of answering the frantic, (non-emergency), email or text I receive from a client or coworker at 2 AM on Saturday, I wait until my workday begins on Monday. I stop myself from working into the night or worse, waking up in the middle of the night and jumping on the computer with a deadline on my mind, frantically working at the projects that are indeed important, but are not worth my peace of mind. The result? I sometimes miss deadlines. But guess what? My serenity was worth it. Which leads me to the next point:
The Wisdom to know the difference.
This pandemic has led me to be busier than I have ever been. I have work and health and kids and school to juggle on a constant basis. If I let it, these burdens would fill my every waking moment, and rob me of joy. The thing is some of these things are not going to be impacted by me. Ever. I know that I, with my worrying, cannot stop this pandemic from threatening my life and those of my loved ones. I know that I cannot worry the world into a place where we love and accept each other for who we are, and do not fight over trivial things such as skin color or political affiliation.
There are, however, some things I CAN change. I can treat my body as well as I can, make good choices about food and exercise, interact with my family from afar, and start and stop my workday at a reasonable time. I can demonstrate love and acceptance for everyone I encounter, online or off. I can, and frankly must do those things, for the sake of my peace.
But I will not do them perfectly. I will miss deadlines and work too much or too little. I will sometimes be angry and unloving. I will mess up, over, and over again. And THAT is another one of those things I cannot change, which of course takes me to my last point:
Forgiving ourselves for our shortcomings, and others for theirs, having compassion on ourselves for the fact that we are human, and frail, and scared, and imperfect…in this frankly terrifying and difficult time, is the only way to maintain a few moments of serenity.
I can absolutely guarantee that the world will not end if you stop worrying about it for a few moments, or hours, or days, while you take a breath.
from Sassy’s Blog of the Women’s Resource Center, named for the very astute cat of WRC’s Clinical Director and Resource Coordination Counselor, Kai Qualls, M.A., LPC. The theme of the Blog is Resilience, which is especially timely given our shared uncertainty during the COVID-19 crisis.