Late at night and the rain is falling outside. I can tell this by the sound of the spattering droplets that crash against the skylight and stream down my rooftop.It is at times like this when I lay awake in the dark and think of how insomnia has struck again.
I often listen to other people try to remedy the problems of someone else. And they state their suggestions as if it were the easiest thing to do, which it might be, but nothing is easy when it comes to complicated thinking. Nothing is easy when it comes to pain or problems of the mind, body, or soul
I have this analogy which I use often to help explain the terminally unique idea of feeling out of place or the idea which seems to keep us distant and feeling different.
Have you ever seen one of those hidden pictures inside another picture? The idea is if you look dead-center, supposedly, this creates an optical phenomenon that creates another picture onside the picture.
I never liked these pictures because my eyes never seem to catch the other picture inside. And of course, someone always suggests, “You just have to relax your eyes and look at the center of the picture. But me, I’ve never been able to pick up the hidden picture.
There is something to this for me. And it’s not like I don’t want to see the picture in the picture because I do. I mean, it’s not like I’m not trying. And then someone comes along and says, “You just have to relax your eyes,” and then I start the anxiously concerned thought: How the hell do I just relax my eyes.
My good friend once sent me the funniest thing, which is also equally true. This was funny because it was true, partially because I can see this within myself and partially because I can see this within others in my life; partially because the truth is I know that when the mind gets going, at our worst, there is nothing that can stop the ongoing complication of one thought that blends into the next. My good friend sent me a picture to my phone, which I opened when I saw the word, “Image,”appear on my text message.
I opened the text message to find a picture of a purplish morning sky reflecting across the top of a lake below and in white blocked lettering was the catchy phrase, “Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down.”
I understand this very well.
I go back to that prayer, which is popular prayer and especially well known in the sober community. We call it the Serenity Prayer, which, to better understand, I will break this prayer down in parts.
The prayer opens up, “God, grant me the serenity.”
The definition of serenity is to be serene, calm, or tranquil.
The next line is, “To accept the things I cannot change.”
As for the word, “Accept,” the dictionary has 14 different definitions to define this word; however, in this case, to accept means to understand, to internalize the information; this means to receive the truth of the matter as fact, to acknowledge circumstance as undeniable and unalterable.
The next line of the prayer is, “The courage to change the things I can.”
To change, to make different, to take a different route to avoid the same thing happening again and again; to step away from a repetitive cycle, to remove one’s self of the sad repetitiousness of the same emotion, which never changes if we do the same thing, and to change means to transform, to convert, to replace or substitute.To change means to alter either physically or behaviorally, to choose an alternate action, to walk differently, talk differently, or to escape the sameness of something which otherwise leaves us unhappy.
The last line in the prayer is, “And the wisdom to know the difference.”
Wisdom means to have the know how, to have the knowledge and the better judgement to know the difference between thins I can and cannot do.
In its entirety, the prayer goes as follows:
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.”
There is something I call the culpability of pain. This is where the guilt of unalterable truth becomes painful.
Of all things, there is nothing more unalterable or unchangeable than people places and things. Yet, so long as we have a feeling about any of the above; so long as we have discomfort that we link to either a person, place, or thing, unless we have accountability (or culpability) for the emotion, it can be difficult to accept the unfixable things beyond our control.
No matter how I go over the past facts in my mind, truth is I cannot change it. No matter how many times I rehearse the old arguments in my memory and no matter how I relive them in my head and re-say the things I wished I would have said at the time; the fact remains is there is nothing more unalterable than the past and no amount of rehearsing or reliving an old argument or interrogation will ever change this fact.
The reason why we struggle to let go is because of emotional factors that fire off in our thinking. We feel’; we hurt, we have shame or guilt or humiliation or fear. We fear pain but yet we understand it; we fear the public and personal humiliation, to look stupid or to seem like a failure. We fear rejection, both internally and externally. We fear the personal, internal feelings of abandonment and the lonesome distress of vulnerability.
As we approach the end of 2018, I have contemplated some of my biggest mistakes over the last year. I think of them with regret and wish I stepped away from conversations just minutes before they took place. I wished we could go back to the schoolyard rules, like back when we were kids on the playground so I could have a “Do-over,” and I could stop the game, rewind, and recreate what happened into something more desirable. I wish I could undo certain introductions and redo certain conversations. I wish I could think less and sleep more. And above all,I always wished I could just relax my goddamned eyes and see that picture within the picture.
But I can’t . . . and I accept that.
When it comes to symptoms of the mind, our mental anguish can be worse than physical pain. When it comes to the mind, the fears, the worries of rejection, when it comes to the concerns about our interaction, when the unsettled readiness for the next thing to go wrong, for the next teardrop to fall, or when it comes to the overthought, over-complicated situations that become the symptoms of our response; when it comes to the hardships, the failures, when it comes to the damage we sustain and the pain we endure, the courage to change the things we can comes when we can no longer tolerate the things we do not want.
Going into 2019, I plan to leave this year behind me. I plan to keep the memories and the friendships and love, which serve me as mutually beneficial. Most of all, going into this New Year, in order to accept the things I cannot change, I need to forgive my transgressions. I need to forgive my mistakes. Instead of trying to find accountability for the pains and regrets, I need to forgive my interaction and pardon my part so that I can let go of my yesterday and greet today as a friend. In order for me to accept the things I cannot change and have the courage to change the things I can, I need to give myself permission to make these things so. And that prayer, The Serenity Prayer, this is a mantra; this is an internal plea, which can become law, if we allow it to be.
I say this prayer now. And I mean it too. I have to mean it. Otherwise, I will feel that out of place feeling and stand there, trying to relax my eyes,and see a picture that doesn’t exist for me.