Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Serenity Prayer

I often talk about the Serenity Prayer with my patients.  It originated with Alcoholics Anonymous, and has taken on a life of its own.  It goes like this:  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.  People seem to spend alot of energy and time in trying to change things that can't be changed, and complaining about things that could be changed.  The most difficult part, it seems, is the wisdom to know the difference.
Yesterday the second session of my new Chronic Illness/Chronic Pain Support Group was scheduled to begin at 4:30 pm.  I had 4 people who had told me they definitely planned to come, and a couple other maybes.  Compared to some places, the local effects of the winter storm that hit the US were relatively mild.  We did not have alot of snow, but we had ice.  Schools were closed for the second day, including universities.  As the day progressed, one by one I got e-mails and phone calls- can't get the ice off of the car; can't drive down the icy driveway; afraid to go out.  3 out of the 4 let me know they were not coming.
I had all my notes and handouts ready, I had the materials and samples of the art project we were going to do. I decided I did not want to use the topic I had prepared if just 1 or 2 people showed up, so I put them in a folder to use for the next session.  We would have a free, open session, I would give them options to play with clay, paint or draw, do a collage, or try an art therapy type experience.  I was looking forward to a chance to have a little fun, to explore ideas with other people. 
There is a Yiddish saying "Man plans and God laughs".  4:30 came and went.  At 5:00 I went home (that is, I walked through the door that separates my gallery from my apartment).  I did not feel disappointed.  I had actually expected that no one would come, but I had been prepared if they did.   I had (wisely) put the Serenity Prayer into action.  I (serenely) accepted that I could not change the weather, and the fact that it affects people's behavior.  I (courageously?) changed my plan for the session as the afternoon progressed and cancellations came in.   I made my plans, but at the end of the day (I hate that expression, but it is literally accurate here), I, too, was able to laugh, because of the Serenity Prayer.
Over the years since I learned it, I have practiced putting the Serenity Prayer into practice (pun intended).  It does take some practice to apply the right part of the prayer.  I think we often know the difference between what we can and cannot change, but don't use our wisdom of that knowledge to direct our actions.  It takes stepping back from the situation and thinking 'What is the best course of action?  What is most likely to bring about the desired outcome?'   Using the Serenity Prayer leads to more efficient use of time and energy, and less frustration.
I do sometimes wish I still lived in El Paso, Texas, where I grew up.  We never had to cancel events because of weather (at least, not as I remember).  

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