Tag Archives: serenity prayer


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.


Remaining hopeful during difficult times

Last week, I got a new bike. My old bike was a twenty-year-old boy’s bike and swinging my leg over the bar had become increasingly more challenging. Last fall, I began researching bikes made specifically with older people in mind.

I found lightweight bikes and bikes with the pedals moved a little forward to accommodate aging hips. And then I found easy boarding bikes, with virtually no bar to climb over—just a platform to step across.


When I ordered my new bike two weeks ago, I told the bike shop owner that I plan to ride this bike for the next twenty years.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I realized how optimistic they were. We are in the midst of a pandemic that is killing people my age. It has even been nicknamed the boomer remover because of how vulnerable my peers and I are to this virus.

And I am buying a bike I plan to ride for the next twenty years!

How do I reconcile these two realities—my optimism and my vulnerability?

I am an optimist by nature. In the face of reality, no matter how dark or hopeless the current situation might seem, I still see potential to learn and grow. I believe that every curse has a blessing, and the invitation is to find the blessing and to learn something from current circumstances.

In the midst of this pandemic, I feel the anxiety of the not knowing—how long the pandemic will last, how many people will get sick, how many will die, how close to home the virus will come—all the uncertainties of the situation.

There are many mysteries, I often say, things over which I have no power or control. I believe I am invited to accept that I am powerless over them. At the same time, I am invited to continue to live in trust and hope.

And that means not just being alive, but living fully, joyfully and gratefully.

Here are some practices that help me to remain optimistic and hopeful:

  1. Focusing on what I have instead of what is lacking. I am richly blessed by family, friends, a home, food, etc., and reminding myself of all that I have helps me see abundance instead of scarcity.
  2. [MB1]  grateful for what I have. Keeping a gratitude journal and every day, naming at least three things for which I am grateful (by writing them, saying them out loud or at least calling them to mind) reinforces how much good is in my life.
  3. Telling the people in my life that I am grateful for them—in person, via phone, email or snail mail—at least one person a day.
  4. Saying the Serenity Prayer every day to remind myself what I can control (me) and what I cannot control (most everything else). Keeping the focus on me helps me have realistic expectations and leads to greater serenity.

What helps you stay hopeful?



Act on generous impulses

Someone recently posed a question about unreciprocated generosity—should she continue to give to her friends when her giving is not reciprocated?

It is a question I have heard before, along with its sister question, “why am I always the one to initiate plans with friends?”

I once had a housemate who had a reputation for being messy. Her previous housemates warned me against living with her, using “never” and “always” to describe her lack of housekeeping skills (she “never” cleans up after herself; she “always” leaves a mess, etc.). But I ignored their counsel.

My housemate and I agreed to alternate cleaning the common living spaces—I would do it one week and she the next.

It soon became apparent, though, that my housemate was not going to live up to her side of the agreement. After a month or so, I had to decide if I was going to keep being disappointed because she was not fulfilling her part of the agreement or if I was going to adjust my expectations.

Adjusting my expectations seemed more doable and healthier for me, because my unmet expectations were making me resentful.

I accepted that our apartment would get cleaned every other week, and my housemate and I then lived together in relative peace. Yes, she was off the hook for cleaning, but she was not going to do it anyway. (By the way, she thought my suggestion that the apartment get cleaned every week was an indication that I was a compulsive neat freak.)

That situation was an early lesson for me in living the serenity prayer.


Changing other people is impossible; I can only change myself and my expectations.

Being generous because one is a generous person is its own reward. Expecting the recipient of one’s generosity to reciprocate can lead to disappoint and resentment. There are, of course, times when another’s behavior is abusive and one needs to walk away, but I am not talking about that.

I am talking about the kind of expectations we have in daily life, like unreciprocated generosity.

It can be frustrating when friends seem to enjoy being on the receiving end of another’s generosity or participating in what others plan, with no intention of reciprocating.

The question is, are you happier when you are being generous? Or engaging in social activities? Do you need to get together with friends more than they do? If you get joy from giving and planning, then keep giving and planning because you will be happier for it.

To the person who posed the question about unrequited generosity, I suggested she give to her friends as she would to a homeless person on the street—with no expectation of getting anything in return.

If it is your nature to initiate and plan, do that. If it is your nature to be generous, then be generous for the sake of being generous. The world needs more people who act on their generous impulses.