I'm going to presume, dear reader, that you know of The Serenity Prayer. It begins with "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." In the 1940s, it was adopted by A.A. and, although it was not written strictly with sobriety in mind, it has been strongly associated with them ever since.
I have been wondering about serenity lately. Can it be an enduring condition or is serenity always going to be nudged about by anxiety, fear, chaos, uncertainty and suffering? How do other people experience it? Do you think of Buddha under the bodhi tree achieving nirvana or do you think of George Costanza's father bellowing, "Serenity now!!"?
Is it quiet like low tide on a warm, still summer day or is it the breath you take before charging into battle? Is serenity that moment that you crack open a good book knowing you have two uninterrupted hours to just read? Is it making a decision to walk away from a bad relationship? What is the feeling of seeing a newborn wrap their whole fist around your little finger? Closing your laptop cover? Holding hands with someone? Relief from chronic pain? Releasing negative people or energy from your sphere? Is serenity fleeting or are you capable of maintaining it for long periods?
Google "serenity quotes" and after the ubiquitous Serenity Prayer you'll find dozens of variations of being calm within the storm or finding inner strength and peace. You'll find references to stillness, acceptance, letting go and personal responsibility. In the prayer, serenity is solicited "to accept the things I cannot change." So, there's a crux. Is it serenity that allows us to manage our grief or horror? Is serenity required to live with pain or poverty or madness? Or does cultivating acceptance lead to serenity? Whichever comes first, how do we achieve serenity?
As all prayers do, The Serenity Prayer asks for help. Whether it's God or just some one, some community, belief or thing that's greater, stronger, bigger than you, prayers are entreaties for assistance, for help. So it's "God, GRANT ME the serenity to accept the things I cannot change" meaning we are relying on others to support us while we struggle to manage what we know we mustultimately face on our own.
Sometimes, life can be really crazy, really chaotic -- anything but serene -- and when that happens, you may feel overwhelmed, as if there's nothing you can do about it but just grin and bear it. That's probably a very good time to reach out to a friend, an organization, a church, a neighbor, and ask for a little help. That little outreach might be what it takes to get you a little sorely needed serenity right now.
As for courage and changing things up, I'll examine that next week.