There are very few constants in life, one of them being CHANGE! Human beings love certainty and change challenges this. We are, at the base instinctual level, looking for certainty always, hoping we can predict the safest, best outcomes for ourselves and those we love in each of our actions, responses and moves. It’s subtle, unconscious even, yet it is always at work behind the scenes. It’s a primal, survival based need, to know ‘we’, our tribe, will be ok.
When we don’t ‘know’ that, we become anxious! Anxiety is a future oriented emotion, unsure about what is to come. Anxiety presents itself differently in various people: some get paralyzed in fear, others motivated with energy, others become controlling in the smallest of things, and some only know the anger (a secondary emotion unconsciously chosen because one does not know how to feel what they primally do, i.e. worry, doubt, loneliness, confusion, powerlessness, etc) that seems to consume them.
I feel like I have at times thrived on change, sought it out willingly, and at other times, gone kicking and screaming into the change that was unfolding before me. I have always thought of myself as a highly adaptable being. The last couple of years have shown me the truth and lie of that assumption as I have watched myself respond to changes in my life and the lives of those around me.
In March of 2020 we, as a global tribe, were shaken to our cores when everything changed for everyone almost simultaneously. COVID-19 was an unforeseen reality that swept the globe resulting in massive change, quickly and almost without exception. Life stopped as we went into lockdowns, families grieved while also having to adjust to a new way of life, livelihoods and entire industries were being wiped off the map, people were being told what to do and wondered if the ones telling us knew what they were doing. Uncertainty raged over the earth like the waves over the beachhead during a hurricane (I live in Florida so this is a real image for us). The uncertainty, and the constant change it brings, just keeps coming, eroding our predictable lives. The result? Anxiety, unrest, fear, doubt, resistance, and ANGER!
Maggie and I have seen the effects of this in our own lives but also in the countless lives of those we love and those we care for and counsel. The human brain is not meant to live at heightened levels of anxiety for extended periods of time. Our ‘emergency center’ made up of the Amygdala, Hippocampus and Thalamus are meant to work quickly for short bursts, helping us get away from the proverbial bear threatening to attack. When kept ‘on’ for this long, it wears everyone out emotionally, physically, relationally, professionally and more. This leaves us in a fragile state of being, even if we cover it up with confident rage at the external uncontrollables.
There is another way, and the path of this way is called awareness; self, others and even God, awareness. Awareness leads to Agency, which may be defined as the acceptance and understanding of each persons ability to impact their surroundings. A very simple, crucial prayer that has been in our family’s life since inception, can help bring clarity to this, its called the Serenity Prayer! Most people know the first 3 lines of it (read the full prayer here, it teases this out even further), “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.” Powerfully simple. The wisdom comes from an increasing level of awareness, from God through prayer, from contemplation and curiosity; the serenity comes from knowing what I can and can not do, and the courage comes from within and from God. This prayerful practice leads one down a path, releasing control over much of what ails us, doing what we can with what we have where we are right now, and settling into our new reality as it unfolds. The deeper truth of the change we are facing is that we are changing, the question is how?
We have a whiteboard in our eat in kitchen area and we use if for different things, right now it holds various quotes our kids have put up. Our youngest daughter Ellery who is about turn 11 recently wrote something that captures all of this simply, yet powerfully.
Dear friends, if you relate to this at all in any way, or know others who do, if you have wondered if this was just it, how it will always be now, let me tell you there is HOPE! We can find Serenity in the midst of change, we have to be able to, because change will always be here! Sometimes, a trusted guide, who has learned along the way, is all you need to find the path again. Maybe we can be that trusted guide for you!
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