The Serenity Prayer is so simple but so wise. I think of it often when I am dealing with a difficult situation, and I encourage my clients to use it in their own lives. The Serenity Prayer has a special message for individuals who are living during this global pandemic that has descended upon us. So I wanted to share my thoughts on this message.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Human beings get very attached to the status quo. It’s not in our nature to actively embrace change. Especially change that is thrust upon us, not chosen. The coronavirus crisis is like an uninvited houseguest, it moved into our homes, took over the master bedroom, wants breakfast in bed, and just made up a new list of household rules that everybody else has to follow. And this uninvited houseguest hasn’t given us any idea when it intends to move on. So we are left – as the Serenity Prayer teaches us – to accept that for the foreseeable future adjustments and restrictions will be a part of our lives
Coming to accept that the impact of this crisis may not go away anytime soon is an ongoing process, it has been for me, and it may be for you. Denial is a normal reaction to bad news. It’s only human to hope that if we ignore something long enough it will go away on its own. We want to be in control of our lives, and crisis situations remind us that we’re not in control. On an especially hard day, you may be feeling like just digging in and living your life the way you expected it would be – without the challenges and the responsibilities that have been thrust upon you. A day that looks like one continuous slog.
We are living in uncertain times. Human beings don’t do well with uncertainty. You know, the control thing. But if you keep fighting reality, you’re going to wear yourself out. Think of all the times in the last week you have heard or read the phrase: “We don’t know.”
No, accepting with grace does not mean giving up. It means making the decision to face life as it is, with an open mind and an open heart. That’s serenity.
Courage to change the things that should be changed,
Embracing change means taking the best possible care of yourself, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Following the public health guidelines, even when they don’t seem necessary, staying informed, helping your loved ones to do the same. Along with getting, and giving, support. Cooperation. That can mean mending relationships, even when it means admitting you’re wrong, or taking the first step when you don’t think you’re wrong. And asking for help when the last thing you want to do is to ask for help. Making small and not so small changes are steps toward living your life to the fullest extent possible even after it feels like your life has been turned upside down and inside out.
Yes, the things that should be changed.
Hunker down. You are probably as tired of this phrase as I am (along with petri dish and lockdown, but I digress). So I will replace it with a word that I often use with my clients. Reconnect. Spend more quality time with your family and loved ones, time that doesn’t involve lots of other distractions that keep you from really being in each other’s presence. Use whatever media you have available to stay in touch with people you can’t see in person. If you are like me, you may already be realizing how much you care about and appreciate your co-workers and the people you encounter in local businesses. Where possible, don’t isolate yourself any more than you have to. Reach out!
And reconnect with yourself. Spend time reevaluating your priorities. Take a long and hard look at what’s really important and what you have been thinking is important. You may find your priorities shifting. How have you been using your time and energy in a way that benefits yourself and others, and where have you been wasting your time? It takes courage to be honest with ourselves because we don’t always like what we see. Be courageous.
While you’re at it, connect, or reconnect, with your spiritual side, whatever that means for you. Body, mind, spirit work together.
Control? Embrace your own inner resilience. It’s there. Exercise it as you take action to create changes that support your own well-being and the well-being of those around you. That’s where you do have control. Courage! You can do it, we can do it.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
When you accept the aspects of your life that you don’t have control over, then you can focus your energy on where you do have control. You can stop fighting with yourself. And the way forward becomes a whole lot clearer.
Again, being wise about what you can ad cannot control can sound like a tough nut because it goes against that need to maintain control that is hardwired into all of us humans.
For me, the coronavirus crisis has been a process of letting go. Facing reality. Following the rules, even the ones that with my limited medical knowledge don’t make a lot of sense to me. Accepting that these rules are not only for other people to follow but also for me. Making the choice to give in to the process.
Be creative. Taking a step back and viewing the task at hand from a completely different perspective, letting go of past habits and assumptions, and approaching what you need to accomplish day to day from a whole different perspective. Here is a thought for you – this might be your opportunity to enter the technology-rich world of the 21st century. Welcome!
Face your fear. First by admitting that you’re afraid. And then by flooding the fear with as many facts as possible. Again, sucking it up and following the guidelines, even when you don’t want to. Acting in a rational manner and resisting the urge to act out of panic. Yes, that means leaving a few canned goods and packages of frozen chicken on the shelves to make sure your neighbor has food, too.
Watch out for all that anger you might be feeling. Sure, we’re all ticked off. However, anger can be a cover for other emotions, especially fear. Given the challenges we are facing, this is not the time to swallow feelings. Don’t be afraid of your fear, your anxiety, your disappointment. They are just feelings.
Wisdom comes from facing challenges and being willing to learn from your experience. Don’t worry, your wisdom is not hiding from you. Get on the path toward gaining wisdom by being quiet and listening to your own inner voice. Yes, starting with acceptance.
And on your path toward wisdom, be patient. We’re in a crisis, and the rules are being made up as we go along. Be compassionate, let yourself be a messy human and let others be messy and human as well. Be flexible, willing to step out of your comfortable routine and make sacrifices for our collective greater good. Be grateful, every day, for all the little moments of joy and connection. Stay optimistic. Better times are ahead. One day at a time.
Who knows, out of an unprecedented crisis may come personal growth – and more wisdom – for all of us.
Here’s a question to ponder: When you’re faced with a decision to make, another onerous rule to follow, or when you’re having an especially tough day, ask yourself: What’s the best I can do to be the best I can be, for myself and for the people I care about? For the community in which I live? For the global community of which I am a member? Listen closely for your answer. Trust your inner voice to guide you in the right direction.
Engage your wise rational mind. Plan wisely. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. Stay grounded. While you’re acknowledging the catastrophe that exists, don’t create new ones.
Wisdom grows over time, day by day…
As you face each day… with acceptance of life on life’s terms… and courage to know the difference between what you can control and what you have to sit with. Open mind, open eyes, open heart. Serenity.
Take good care of yourself. Take good care of your loved ones. We’re all in this together! Godspeed!