The concept of choices has been a difficult one for me to grasp up to this point in my life. It is often too easy to blame circumstances and other people for the problems in our lives. Once we become aware that everything that happens is the result of a choice, it becomes easier to recognize that in choosing something different, we can change our path.
I know, this is much easier said than done… and I am sure some of you will have a million examples of a situation, where someone feels they did not have a choice. But truly, every situation we find ourselves in comes to a basic compilation of a bunch of choices. Even when we find ourselves victims of circumstance, we have a choice in how we let the circumstance impact us.
I am currently working a friend who is at a cross roads.
Marigold, as I will call her, has been struggling for some time, deciding if she should stay in a marriage that no longer works, for either of them. I see it doesn’t work for either of them because he continuously has a side piece. This is not a one time affair, but multiple affairs (that Marigold knows about) and over the course of many years. Marigold has a good, stable career, her sons are mostly grown and she is starting to feel lonely. On several occasions, she has contacted me to inform me that she has finally made up her mind, she is leaving… that was almost six months ago. On social media, her pictures tell the story of a happily married couple; date night, family time, ball games etc. On the surface, to most of her friends, Marigold appears happy at home. However, this simply is not the case. Marigold is lonely and depressed. From the outside looking in, I can see she has the strength and means to leave this unfulfilling relationship and stand strongly on her own. For her however, the good times, the few and far between, leave her holding on to hope that he will change, that things will get better. Sadly, this pattern repeats itself over and over again and I watch my dear friend hold on to hope of something better, only to have it crushed over and over again in the same manner.
I have been friends with Marigold for over ten years and have seen this situation repeat itself multiple times. From the outside, it is easy to see the situation will not change, until one of them changes it. The difficulty is recognizing our choices when we are in the thick of the situation.
This is where the Serenity Prayer always comes into play for me, I learned it when I was a teenager and I have found it to be incredibly useful in any situation where I find myself to be struggling with pain, frustration, anger, desire… etc.
Serenity to accept the things I cannot change – Marigold cannot change the situation with her husband. We cannot change other people! Simply willing her husband to stop cheating on her will never make him change. Marigold can either accept the infidelity and CHOOSE to live with it or CHOOSE to move on, either way, it is her choice, she is not trapped in her current situation. It really is that simple. Should Marigold choose to stay in the relationship, she can do so knowing that it was her choice to do so. Of course, choosing to stay will not change the situation and probably will not make it feel any better, but, it is still a choice to stay.
Should Marigold CHOOSE to leave the situation, she may find the second half of the serenity prayer applicable: Courage to accept the things I can change. Sometimes we find ourselves in losing battles, bad situations and other unacceptable circumstances. The second part of the serenity prayer asks us for the Courage to accept that we have the power to make a change, we need only decide to do so. It is so easy to lament about circumstances that are out of our control, but what many of us need is simply the courage to make a new choice. Of course, in Marigold’s situation, leaving a marriage after 25 years is difficult. She may have to change her standard of living, she may have to hire a lawyer, move to a new house etc. Choosing to leave is never easy, however, we always, always have a choice!
The third part of the serenity prayer asks for Wisdom to know the difference. Admittedly, it is easy to feel trapped in our life circumstances, it is easy to play the victim and blame other things and often other people for our situation. More often than not however, we are choosing our situation, we are choosing to stay in a bad marriage, we choose to work a job we detest, we choose to continue working for less than we deserve. These are all choices. We need only the wisdom to recognize that we do indeed have a choice.
Whenever I my feelings are getting the best of me, (anger, sadness, hurt, frustration) I like to recite the serenity prayer to myself. It helps to remind me that I always have a choice, even if the choice is as simple as choosing my attitude. Probably 99% of the time, I am able to come to a fast decision and start a plan of action, by reminding myself to let go of that which I cannot control and to CHOOSE.
You do not have to be a Christian or even religious to use this prayer to your benefit. Sometimes I ask the universe to provide me, sometimes, I remind myself that I already have these things inside me. Often, what it comes down to is recognizing that I do indeed have a choice or finding the courage to make the necessary change to the situation.
With that, my New Year’s wish for each of you is:
Serenity – to accept the things you cannot change
Courage – to change the things you can
Wisdom – to know the difference.
Have you found the serenity prayer to be helpful in your life? It helps me navigate my choices. Actually, it reminds me that when I have a choice, it is incumbent on me to make the change, if I cannot actually change the situation or the person, I ALWAYS have the choice to stay or leave. I would love to hear about this or other tools you might use to guide your life and your choices.