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Archive for May 23rd, 2009

Of course, you are right. (continued from above…)

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009

Not in Charge

When I went to Africa, I had a mantra. It was “I am not in charge.” In that 5 weeks, it was literally true. I did not speak the languages of the countries we visited. I had to trust others to make sure I was in the right place, got food and sleep, had basic safety taken care of. Trying to control anything, when I could not understand what was being said around me, would have been crazy-making.

There is a prayer (which can work for nearly any belief system) called The Serenity Prayer. The short, modern version goes like this:

(G-d,) grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

I have also heard a longer version which includes a line something like “acceptance of those with different struggles.” I like that, but can not find it using Google right now.

In my mind, “I’m not in charge” is sort of the Serenity Prayer in four secular words. It allows me to let go of anything other than those things I can actually change. And let go of the self-focused notion that if only the world would do what I said, that it would run better. Honestly, there are very few moments in my life when I’m really in charge, anyway (teaching is the biggest one, but without the student doing some effort, I can do nothing alone).

Who really wants to be King/Queen of the world anyway? They pretty much never get a day off, and more people than not will blame them for all the problems in their realm.

In the 1970’s play Pippin, a young man kills his father who is the king, and tries to be a good king himself. He can not please everybody and there is dissent. So he asks his dad for forgiveness, the dad “un-dies,” (it’s a play… whatever) and young Pippin gives the headaches, of being king, back to his father.

The Essence, at Least as I See it Today

I say: Life is short. It is VERY short. My own father died at 40. My brother’s first wife died at 27. I’m already at the lovely, not-old, age of 50, which I love. I’m in what I call “the gravy years” (years Daddio did not have) already. Every day is a gift, and perhaps I know this better than those who have never lost a loved one young.

The Motto of this Chapter of My Journey:
I can’t afford to be right all the time. It costs me potential relationships, and hurts ones I already have. Relationship is more important to me than other things, today.

I’m glad I lived long enough to learn this lesson. I’m glad I had a wise friend willing to say things I needed to hear, when I did not really want to know.

So now most times when someone comes at me with their own need to be right, I concede that it is true. They *ARE* right. No tug of war, No hassles, just peace. What a change this has made in my life! It has been quite worth letting that one go.

An Unusual Subject

I realize this is not my typical post. However, relationships are one of the most important creative endeavors a human can ever attempt.

I am really reaping the benefits recently, of this change in mindset. I am seeing how my life is just plain better now. It seemed time to share that lesson with my readers, in case they might benefit from the concept themselves.

Or not. I can’t know what you need, but I can share what helped me. I hope it’s helpful to someone out there as well.

(There is a related post on Christine Kane’s blog, called “Why your ego loves airplane delays.” This entry spurred my own columns here. Her column reminds me of the day I got mad at that teller. Recommended reading.)