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Substances are not my addiction. Work and people-pleasing have been.
I’ve been working on my program for decades.
Those who have spent time in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Gamblers Anonymous (GA), The Association for Children of Alcoholics (ACOA), or in my case, CODA (Co-dependents Anonymous), are familiar with a signature reading known as “The Serenity Prayer,” penned by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971):
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
It is portable and can be uttered anytime and anyplace when we are feeling rattled by life. It has gotten me through loss, serious illness, injury, financial challenges, job changes, a hurricane, and a heart attack, as well as the death of loved ones. It has kept me relatively sane and vertical in times of uncertainty. It has worked as a filter to keep me from impulsively blurting out what is on my mind and given me time to take a breath.
I have been tested mightily in the past six years. I know I’m not alone there. Since pre-election, 2016, I have chanted it reflexively. Incredulous and despondent at the outcome, I knew it wasn’t sufficient. Hell, no. I was not about to accept that a just universe would allow for someone so ill-equipped to lead, to be placed in a position where he was able to wreak the havoc that he did.
I had hoped that there would be enough responsible adults around him to rein him in when he went too far astray. I had prayed that things wouldn’t go off the rails. With each outrageous word he spewed or action he took, I cringed and inwardly raged. I wrote copious articles to help me maintain my footing. I explored what compelled people to stand by him despite the risk he posed to the world.
It came to a horrific cataclysm on January 6th, 2021. A year later, we are still feeling the aftershocks. I feel frustrated with the people who say they “back the Blue” and showed up on that day to attempt to overturn the election results or sat on the sidelines cheering on the insurrectionists and swallowed “the big lie,” hook, line, and sinker.
Then came the pandemic, with its whirlwind destructive force. Remember I said I survived a hurricane (although our house didn’t)? This has been a category five sh*t storm. Now, coming up on two years since it began its rampage (859,189 lives lost in the United States and 5,617,286 worldwide to date), people are still divided by how to react to it. Some still consider it a hoax, overblown, heavy-handed government control, and media fear-mongering. Some feel invulnerable and invincible so they won’t get vaccinated or wear masks.
Even though I have been vaxxed and boosted, I still wear a mask when I am indoors with others. This social butterfly has temporarily folded her wings in order to increase the odds that I, and by extension, my family, will remain healthy. Although I have no control over the virus, I can adjust my actions to meet the moment.
I have needed to revise and tweak the serenity prayer to rise to the occasion. Social media has presented abundant opportunities to put it to good use. With posts that either support TFG (The Former Guy), justify what occurred during his presidency and its aftermath, or engaged in what-about-ism to raise false equivalency, it has come in handy.
I wrote this in early 2020:
“Please grant me the serenity and the filters to prevent me from ‘reacting’ to posts justifying, excusing, or otherwise deflecting about the words and actions of the current occupant of the Oval Office. Many a time, I have thought that I need to say something, and then ask myself if it is worth the aggravation of going head-to-head with someone who is not likely to change their mind. Instead, I do my best to go heart-to-heart and attempt to understand where they may be coming from. It doesn’t mean I accept their beliefs as my own. It means that if I lived their life and had their experience, I might feel the same way and say the same things. There are certainly some that I respond to as best I can, in measured tones, asking them how they came to hold the beliefs and values they do. That feels better in my body. It can be exhausting to be in hypervigilance mode.”
There are times when I need to attempt to change the things I cannot accept.
Feel free to use my words to help you maintain your own equilibrium.
Wishing you serenity.