Grasping at serenity

I stood in the kitchen just now asking myself a pertinent question.

Just how old do I think I am? Pushing forty, or pushing 4?

I’ve had a very busy day today. I knew it was going to be a logistical nightmare and I was prepared. I’ve been going to bed earlier for a week or two, and the extra sleep I’ve been having has made a massive difference to my mood and my attitude. Things which have made me wobble significantly in the past few months have not bothered me at all this past week.

All positive, all good. Today, the sun has shone, the sky has been blue. I have smiled, I have bounced along, I have done some more tidying, I have had a good, good day. Complacency began to creep in. ‘I can do this! I can cope! Life is so easy when I get more sleep! I am brilliant!’ etc. etc…

And then this evening things got a bit ragged around the edges. I was meant to be in four different places at once. I managed two of them and delegated the other two. My head started to ache a little due to not having time for an evening meal.

And, crucially, other people started to mess up my happy space!

When I worked in a college library, I used to joke that my job would be a piece of cake if it wasn’t for the students. Well nowadays I could just as easily joke that my life would be a piece of cake if it wasn’t for other people!

Several people behaved in a way I personally didn’t want them to behave, because the things they were doing were inconveniencing me, and my plan for my evening. The positive, happy space started to wobble, and then went ‘pop’ like a bubble. I stomped. I grumbled. I shouted. In short, I had a full blown adult version of a toddler tantrum. Because other people hadn’t read my script! They were deviating from the lines I had given them! How very dare they?!

And then I stepped back from the situation a little and looked at myself, standing in the kitchen doing the washing up I hadn’t expected to have to do, with the resentment tapes running in my head muttering about how if other people only followed my rules, everything would be all right. And, probably due to the extra sleep I’ve been having, I got some much needed perspective from somewhere.

These days I try to live my life as simply as possible and find there are some words and quotations that really help me. For example: Julian of Norwich’s “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well”. I find the repetition and the rhythm of that phrase, as well as the words themselves, very soothing and calming.

Another set of words I try to live my life by is the well known ‘Serenity Prayer’, to be found on posters and fridge magnets up and down the land, but no less important to me despite its ubiquitousness:

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.

I usually recite this under my breath (sometimes over and over again) when circumstances conspire against me to make me grumpy. But as I stood in my kitchen with my hands in the hot washing up water, I remembered that it can apply equally to my unhealthy desire to control other people as well.

God, grant me

The serenity to accept the people I cannot change, for exactly who they are and what they are doing right now (however much it is annoying me and messing up my plans)

The courage to change myself and my own attitude (because that is the only thing I can change)

And the wisdom to know the difference. (Because while I do know that other people are not me, and I am not them, I still have this wretched tendency to see people as bit parts in the play in which I have the starring role).

This has been an honest post. I’m a bit nervous about posting it as it doesn’t show me in a particularly good light tonight! But it’s where I’m at this evening. And believe me, this is a massive improvement on the me a few years ago who would have seethed with resentment for days, weeks and possibly months about other people and their evil plans to personally mess up my life…  truly I am almost sane most of the time these days 😉

That moment in the kitchen was a mini wake up call, and I decided to write about it to remind myself – place a marker in the sand, so to speak. I managed to turn my thinking around tonight and the positivity is back. For the moment. I will go to bed serene tonight.

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10 thoughts on “Grasping at serenity

  1. What a great post. There is a lot of food for thought there and if only I was less tired I would put my brain into action! I will return to it.

  2. That is an incredibly helpful post Helen – I love your take on the serenity prayer and if it’s ok may well borrow it. I too expect the rest of my family (and friends on occasion) to follow “my script” and then get upset when they don’t – and with Matty back at home pretty much full time it’s going to be hard for us both this year.

  3. This is a very powerful post, Helen. And so true. I think I could do with remembering that often, too!

    And I think it shows you in an excellent light. We ALL do things that we regret or aren’t proud of, and most of us just write it off or ignore it. You used it as an opportunity for reflection and growth. That’s most definitely something to be proud of.

  4. You’re not alone in feeling like that Helen. I have an annoying tendency to have things stuck in my head ( like your script) of how things should be and when things deviate from that I do get very mutinous and resentful. As Cory says to me – how on earth is he supposed to know what I have planned, but I just expect people (wrongly) to know. I am trying, like yourself to think about how my actions impact on others, but it is hard. I love the quote you posted from Julian of Norwich and I think I may well pinch that as my mantra. It is hard realising that sometimes it is so hard to be a grown up about things xxx

  5. Have you read sleeping with bread? it is all about taking the positive from the day whatever that may be, thanking God for it and taking it with you into the following day. The worst thing of the day you leave behind. When you wake up you have a very positive thing to start off your day with! Sounds very simple but trust me it makes you feel very different! ( book was recommended to me by emma so i bought it, if you would like to borrow it let me know – its only short! )

  6. This fits in a bit with some of my thoughts recently. I think I sent you a text earlier today saying something about a fresh start. I’ve also been thinking about how I want my life to change and from there the fact that while I want other people to change what they do, I can’t control that. What I can do is change me and what I do and how I react to things.

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