A few weeks ago I received some news that inspired me to once again contemplate the question of what is really within our control. Anyone who has ever gone through any type of recovery program has probably been given a copy of the Serenity Prayer.
Oh how peaceful and easy it sounds! It offers the perfect solution to sorting through the events in our lives. Yet many times I find myself attempting to by-pass this philosophy hoping to find a way around it. I find it difficult to truly accept things I cannot change, and this seems to be reinforced by the modern-day mentality that we can do anything we put our minds to, and we have the power to change rather than accept things that we don’t like. It seems we have become so dependent on the instant results that technological advancements have afforded us, we have lost our ability to be patient when faced with difficult situations. Anything seems possible to us now even when logic would tell us otherwise.
I wouldn’t question my ability to change the revolution of the earth around the sun, or the moon around the earth. I wouldn’t think that I could change a rainy day into a sunny day or stop the snow from falling. It is what it is, no matter what I think about it, and in those circumstances it is easy to let go and look for ways to adapt to the reality of the situation.
When it comes to our bodies and our health, it gets much more difficult to discern what we have the power to change. In one week, I received two phone calls that brought me back to the serenity prayer. First, I received a call that my father has a high-grade cancer, and my immediate response was shock, since he appears to be in great health. Second, I received the news from my doctor that I have developed thyroid disease leaving my thyroid under-active.
That brings me to the third part of the prayer, having the wisdom to know the difference. The fact that our health is affected by many factors, some of which are out of control and resulted in the change in health status for both of us, challenges the belief of absolute control over our bodies. In both cases, we were simply made aware of something that already existed, and our thoughts about whether this should be happening are irrelevant, because it did.
Now we are at a crossroad to determine the next course of action. It is easy in my case. I will take the prescribed medication and be thankful that I now have a better understanding of the reasons that I began to notice subtle changes in my body. When I didn’t know about my diagnosis, I was frustrated with the symptoms I was experiencing and somehow felt I should have better control of myself. Now that I know what is going on, it is much easier to accept, especially with the promise that I will soon start feeling better.
In my father’s case, there is apprehension, as we wait for a definite diagnosis, information about the severity and staging, and are faced with decisions about the course of treatment. As my mind explores the various possibilities, I find myself wishing most of all that it was a mistake although this is highly unlikely. I’d like to say this shouldn’t have happened to him, but I need only look at the history books and the world around me to know that illness along with many other difficulties, are as much a part of life as the beauty of a hummingbird floating above a crimson flower, or the first breaths of a baby being born.
There was little time to reach full acceptance about my dad’s diagnosis before springing into action and making the necessary appointments and moving towards a treatment plan, but in a way that is what will make acceptance easier. Having the ability to take some type of action and sort through the information each day gives us a sense of control in dealing with the magnitude of the situation.
The serenity prayer gives us a way to address our human nature. It is natural for us to want to act when confronted with situations, and in this process we often lose sight of the patience and peace of mind that is needed to endure. It is our God-given instinct to fight for our survival, and I’m glad to have that ability and will use it to help my dad face the challenges ahead. I will also keep in mind that the serenity prayers gives us a way to do that more effectively by discerning what is within our power and being able to approach life’s challenges with a clear head.