Not really wisdom, but common sense, I hope

For the past few years I have worked, sometimes even diligently to follow the premise of ‘letting go.’ It’s working OK. Not perfectly, but it’s still better for me, and so much more logical. It’s a big and mean world and there is little I can do to fix it. Damn it!

It’s not always easy doing the letting go thing, and to accomplish that I often turn to the simple but significant wisdom of the Serenity Prayer: About 20 times a day when things haven’t been going right. Sometimes it works.

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.

If that isn’t sufficient for you, I can give you the same thing in Hawaiian, in case you’re feeling in a certain vacation spirit.

E ke Akua Mana Loa, E ha’awi mai I ka maluhia

E ‘ae m ai I na mea I hiki ‘ole ai ia’u ke ho’ololi,

Ka ikaika e ho’ololi ai I na mea hiki ai,

A me ka na’auao e maopopo ai ka ‘oko’a.

See, that way you can feel better in two languages, an at-home one and a tropical vacation one. Although, during the many times I’ve been in Hawaii, I’ve seen little need for the Serenity Prayer. The place invented serenity.

So, what are the things I cannot change and therefore should not be lying awake, dealing with a zero libido, loss of appetite, plumbing distress, palpitations, prickly heat or diaper rash over? Why, damn near everything. But, specifically?

–         the economy, other than my own sensible regard over my resources. I can’t improve what happens with my investments. I can pray, I suppose, but I suspect God is a bit disapproving of the stock market.

–         international politics. The bastards will do what they want to do regardless of what I might think, and regardless of how senseless and even suicidal their behaviors are. Our own senseless and suicidal behaviors internationally are enough for me to contend with, and I can’t influence those, either.

–         Domestic politics. A plague on them all of all parties. I didn’t become a political anarchist for no reason at all, you know.

–         The plight – deserved or otherwise – of the Big 3 automakers. Quite frankly I don’t really care about their travails except for the fact we’re talking jobs and local economies here, folks. Then I could, if I let myself, get all Michael Moore-ish. On the other hand, they’re all back east. And I know they don’t care about the unemployed forest workers here. So, screw them.

–         The impending demise of the Spotted Owl. Since I’ve never seen one I challenge anyody to tell me I’ve done anything to harm one. I did see an environmental note recently, however, that gave me hope. I’ve long suffered under the impression that we only want to go out and save the terminally cute animals, like baby seals, spotted owls, pandas and so forth, and that butt ugly animals don’t get any public angst from PETA or their ilk. Yet, somebody pointed out that wolverines were under threat. Cool. Not that they’re under threat, but that somebody actually cares about what is arguably the nastiest and fiercest carnivore in the forest. Not only are wolverines vicious, they’re also mean-spirited in that they pee on their kills if they can’t eat it all, so that other animals don’t get any. Some in the business community work in a similar manner.

Now, the courage to change the things I can department. That I can do if I choose to. If any of those elements that follow are causing me distress then it is my call to rectify them. If I don’t, then I have no right to whine and I equally have no mandate to blame anybody else. So, what are those?

–         taking care of my health and making whatever changes might be needed to continue to thrive.

–         Extending gestures of love and affection to those nearest and dearest. And maybe even to perfect strangers if they’re especially cute.

–         Doing what I can to give back to my community which, for all its flaws, has generally treated me well.

–         Letting go of people and practices of my past if there is no reason to continue with either. Sorry, hon’.

–         Coming to realize that just because I wouldn’t do a certain negative thing to another, it doesn’t mean they won’t do those things to me.

         Accepting that.

–         Letting go of guilt.

–         Letting go of things that might invoke guilt, including the fun things. Realistically those fun things are the most guilt-inducing.

         Not internalizing imagined slights from people I might cherish. Could be they’re having a bad day.

         Or, it could be they don’t love me as much as I might fancy I love them.

–         Keeping c’est la vie, que sera, and shit happens in prominent places in my working lexicon.

I plan to have a good day. Hope you all do as well.


16 responses to “Not really wisdom, but common sense, I hope

  1. Oh my gosh, Ian, you’ve been reading my mind! I’m going to post this on my refrigerator — for those times when I need a reminder. Your last bullet (“Keeping c’est la vie….”) says it all.

  2. I have a lot of letting go left to do myself, but the enormous gains I’ve enjoyed from the little I’ve managed so far definitely encourage me.

  3. A great way to tackle the subject, Ian, and very honest. I’m learning to let go, too. Wondering about letting go of my blog, and have let go of some blogs lately that are written by people I wouldn’t like in real life. So there you go — extending the idea to the cyber world!

  4. Andrea: I really hope you don’t give up your blog. I value it and my sporadic contact with you.

  5. Of course, sometimes the things we cannot change are intolerable. Like racism. We’ve been trying to change it forever, but it just keeps on keepin on.

  6. Hmmm, letting go …..not easy. Love that prayer though. Great post, thank you.

  7. I love your “courage to change the things I can” list. I may have to keep that somewhere, along with “Do right, always.”

  8. I have moments of letting go and then others where I get stuck in the spin cycle. Ah, the balance of life is so hard sometimes.

    Great post.

  9. I need to take your advice.
    I get wound up about an injustice I perceive, want to do something, find the ground already occupied by professional do gooders doing good to themselves and blow fuses.

  10. <i<Extending gestures of love and affection to those nearest and dearest. And maybe even to perfect strangers if they’re especially cute.

    You’re guilty of it too. Only the cute ones are deserving!!! 😉

  11. One of the hardest things to do is let go of the notion that I am CEO of what happens around me. For emergencies, I sometimes use a shortened version of the serenity prayer, that goes like this:
    Oh well, fuck it.

  12. My daughter often accuses me of having a “rescue complex” – not without reason I must admit; and in Buddhism there is nonattachment, which is letting go in a regimented form. It depends on the area and the person with me, as I’m still a long way from being firmly on the Path, but like you – I’m working on it.
    I do a compassion meditation every day and the goal is to have that glow and lovely feeling towards all life last all the rest of the day – like I said, I’m working on it.

  13. I don’t believe it’s a big mean world. It’s a big indifferent world. But that doesn’t absolve us from the responsibility of trying. I think there is a balance – not to torment yourself about things you have no control over, but also not to too easily decide there is nothing you can do. It’s a hard balance to keep.

  14. The older I get, the more discriminating I get over where I expend my energy. I only have so much to go around, I’ve realized, and so I am learning to choose more carefully. As others have noted, that’s a tough lesson.

  15. That serenity prayer works very well – the original I mean – except for one thing – the god word. Yours is a much better version

  16. Very timely, Ian. I do despair over the lunacy in the world, the unbelievable greed of bankrupt bankers. It is sometimes hard to reconcile to not being able to control such things, and to focus on what you can.

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