I frequently pray this version of the serenity prayer.
Its directness makes it difficult to miss the message. I can only change me, and when I am thinking about how other people need to change, I am on the wrong path.
It is easier to look at the mistakes others are making, to see their stubbornness, selfishness and lack of self-awareness than to look at myself. And yet I know others can look at me and see my mistakes, stubbornness, selfishness and lack of self-awareness.
Some of my friends point out these flaws, and even if I am defensive in the moment, they know that I really do want to hear, because it is only when I become aware of these blind spots that I have any hope of changing.
A friend reminded me the other day of her nickname for me—Our Lady of Perpetual Motion. She is right; I have a hard time sitting still, of doing nothing, of relaxing. When I find myself wanting to say to others, you need to sit down and relax, I know that I am also talking to myself.
Hold that mirror a little closer, I tell myself.
When my mother had a heart attack two years ago, she was in hospital for a week and then went to a rehab facility, where all she could do was complain. She was feeling better than when she entered the hospital, and she just wanted to come home. But the truth was that she needed to regain her strength. That was a truth she did not want to hear or accept, and she made everyone’s life miserable until she got an early release (I think the rehab staff was happy to see her go).
While in rehab, I suggested she try to imagine she was on a cruise, with a private room and a lovely courtyard outside her window. Her meals were delivered, she had a personal trainer and a world-class gym. Where can I sign up? I joked, although I know that accepting a hospital or rehab stay gracefully can only happen when we accept our vulnerability and lack of control.
Admitting her vulnerability and giving up control are two things that do not come easy to my mother. Me neither, if I am being honest.
I know that my cruise image is as much for me and my future as it was for my mom—trying to implant this picture deep in my brain for the day when I might need to go to rehab.
Looking ahead, I can anticipate my own resistance, my inability to accept my vulnerability and give up control. I want to change that in me now so that when the time comes, I will be more willing to accept what others believe to be best for me.
Reminding myself that I am the only person I can change is a step in that direction.
Maybe today, I will just sit myself down and relax for a while.