HOW TO AVOID THE TRAP OF THE SERENITY PRAYER
WARNING: DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT ACCEPTING WHAT YOU CANNOT CHANGE UNTIL YOU READ THIS
I often wake up at 3 a.m. It’s one part of getting older that I really love. In my little sanctuary apartment in the city, I make coffee and go outside to sit on the back deck, to watch the stars and breathe in the magic that is in the early morning air.
Quite often the neighbour across the alley is awake, too. Her back door opens and she comes out to sit on her back deck. A few moments later the neighbour next door pokes his head out of his house, nods a silent good morning and disappears into his garden. I love this. I think of our souls communicating with each other without the knowledge of our conscious minds, each one answering the collective call of the dawn. It’s a place ballet, choreographed by intuition.
When I was younger, I would sometimes awaken at 3 a.m. with worry thoughts poking at me from the inside, as if I had inhaled psychic burrs of guilt, shame, and FEAR. The resulting restlessness disturbed the peace of the early morning and closed the round and open door on my creativity, diminished my capacity to cope with stress. I would make coffee and pace back and forth in the kitchen or I would go for a long walk around the perimeter of the small town where I lived, searching for peace in the dawn.
When we allow worry, doubt and fear to crawl into bed with us, it often makes for a fitful sleep. No wonder we awaken at 3 a.m. with thoughts of self-loathing, dread and desperation.
God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change. The COURAGE to change the things I can and WISDOM to know the difference.
Oh, the good old serenity prayer.
It has tripped me up most of my life. Up until now, I have mostly been too willing to accept the things I BELIEVED I could not change. Oh, I would think to myself, it must be God’s will, I made a choice I can’t undo, or I can’t change another person. I also made myself responsible for other people’s happiness, at the expense of my own. So I accepted and lived with sh*tty circumstances, made the best of things, determined to follow the adage “bloom where you are planted.”
I was talking about this to a very wise friend of mine, who said, “There is nothing you cannot change.” Now, this friend is wise, but he likes to wear his judgey pants. This frustrates me, but I like it, because he challenges me, provokes me to think and sometimes helps me to be angry which is a good thing.
Anger is a sign that something is not right and needs to change. Anger can be your catalyst for meaningful action. Anger, when properly managed, can be your doorway into wisdom.
So, at first I disagreed. Of course there are things you cannot change. You can’t change the past. You can’t change other people. You can’t undo poor choices, wrong turns, retrieve drunken text messages. You can’t undo a plow wind.
A few summers ago an amazing storm tore through our area, causing massive destruction. A powerful plow wind uprooted and sheared a heavily wooded area that my very wise friend calls home. Thank God his home was not damaged, however the trees that populated his beautiful property were razed. The destruction was devastating. All that remained was a tangled mess of logs and branches.
“I just didn’t feel the same about my place,” he said when he shared his story with me. For weeks he stared at the mess despondently, feeling as though something inside him had broken. Then one morning he went out to the mess, took a deep breath, and with shoulders squared, pulled out the first log that he could reach. He dragged it out, cut it up, stacked the reclaimable wood, started a stack for a bonfire and then went back for the next log. If you have to eat an elephant, do it one bite at a time.
“It wasn’t long before I had a path cleared through it all,” he said. Working with calm determination, steadfastly dealing with one log at a time, soon the whole mess was cleared. As he made peace with the new normal, he began to appreciate the open space, the beautiful new view. He began to plant trees and then ideas began to spring up of creative ways he could use the new space and share it with others.
It may appear that you can’t change the circumstance, but you can change your thoughts about the circumstance. You can refuse to crown a circumstance and make it the king of your life. You can change the story you tell yourself about what the circumstance means to you. You can choose to respond to the circumstance rather than react to it.
The moment you realize you have a circumstance, the circumstance doesn’t have you, you gain the courage and strength to stand in your power and move through it with ease and grace.
A change in perspective opens up a whole new world of possibility, a chance to clear the field to reveal a more expansive view, a chance to create a new normal that is better and stronger and brighter than what came before. By changing the way you look at a thing (a circumstance), the thing you look at really does change.
And so, I believe it IS true that there is NOTHING YOU CANNOT CHANGE. You change your life simply by changing your mind, simply by taking up that metaphorical pen, and writing a new story. By accepting the things you cannot change and facing them, those things change into something beautiful, right before your eyes.
What’s your first log? The one thing you are afraid to do? The one thing that you know if you faced it and dealt with it, everything would change. Is it to let go of an unhealthy relationship, address an addiction, choose to forgive someone or maybe it’s time to forgive yourself?
Only you know. If you feel confused as to what your first log might be, try asking yourself, “If anything was possible, if all obstacles melted away, what is the one thing that I could do (or stop doing) that would make the biggest positive impact on my life?”
“I don’t know,” sometimes means “I don’t want to know,” because then you will be faced with a tough decision which will involve a choice to take a step that will require some emotional heavy lifting. The first log is the heaviest and after that it gets easier. I promise.
One of the greatest treasures in life is a peaceful heart.
Many blessings on your day,
P.S. Do not underestimate the power of the ASK. If you find yourself often waking up in the middle of the night, restless and worried, ask for the help you need. Ask from your higher self, from your higher power as you understand it, from trusted friends, from family, and/or reach out to a qualified counsellor or life coach. You are not meant to navigate rough emotional seas alone. ASK.
Email email@example.com to schedule a complimentary Clarity Call if you want help getting clear about where you are and where you want to be. You are not meant to be a Lone Ranger. Help is just an ASK away.