Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bailiwick














My friend Linda raised an interesting subject the other day. I've been thinking about it a lot. She wonders about how other people live, how they embrace the "present" in their own daily lives, how they make the most of what they have. Linda and I have had some good conversations along these lines as well, and I'm always interested in her perspective, as a wife and mother and as a woman with much more life-experience than I've gained yet.

I was having a hard time last week and she offered some wise words. She reminded me of the Serenity Prayer, which is something I do try to remember but it tends to get lost in the clamor of daily life. I need to work on that because it helps me a lot. I am not especially religious; I grew up in a mixed-faith family but was primarily raised as a Roman Catholic. I attended public schools, but went to an excellent Jesuit college, where I received (on nearly-full scholarship) a rigorous education in secular subjects as well as religious theory and history. I'm very proud of my education and the years I spent immersed in the Jesuit tradition. But I don't have a strong religious life today. I have some philosophical issues with the Church, as many people do, and the Bear and I do not share religious beliefs. Instead, I try to pray on my own as feels appropriate.

Do you know the Serenity Prayer? It's beautiful. The first part is the most famous, and you've surely seen it before:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer is almost more of a mantra, in my opinion; I try to keep it in mind when things are feeling overwhelming. Religion is not a subject I've ever really broached on my blog; likewise, some of the biggest issues in my life are not things I feel comfortable discussing openly here. I can say, though, that those challenges fit with the Serenity Prayer because they are things I cannot change; they are other people's problems. I am not perfect either, of course. One of my faults is right there in the Serenity Prayer: a constitutional inability to accept the things I cannot change. I've spent most of my life very worried about other people and the choices they make.

I need to break this soul-destroying habit. It leads to other worries, layers upon layers of interrelated fears, a bottomless rabbit hole of anxiety that extends to every area of my life: I can't sleep, or eat, or relax or take my mind off the anxieties for even a few minutes. I took up crochet a few years ago as a way to deal with this and it does help. But sometimes nothing does. Blogging, and my fledgling attempts at journaling, are helping more lately. I'm glad to have my blog, especially. Meeting like-minded women, reading the musings and ideas of others, seeing the beautiful and plain parts of their lives helps me relax. The world feels smoother, more navigable, when I know that there are people who share my attitudes about life.

The second part of the Serenity Prayer - that, I'm good at. I am very proud of the life I've created and the way I am raising my children. I have learned to find value, and joy, in the simplest of things. I love my house, which is oldish and smallish but comfortable and cozy. I love our yard, which is full of good smells and flowers in every season. I love the imaginative world we've created for our children - pretending and creating with them. My marriage is not perfect, we ebb and flow like any other long-standing couple. But we believe in mutual respect and sharing of duties and we work well together almost all the time. He is my best friend - the best friend I've ever had, really. I'd want him as a friend even if I weren't in love with him. I have hobbies I love and I feel fulfilled every day by the life I've made, the family and home I tend with love, grace and humor, and most importantly, the courage of my convictions.

So I need to focus on this more. I need to learn to let go, to live more in the present, looking toward the future, knowing that the seeds sown today are the ones I will be responsible for reaping. Serenity and courage are invaluable, and I'm working on them all the time. I also need to build up that wisdom, the kind which helps me know the difference between the the things which are in my control and those which are not. I think this wisdom is the missing link. I think it must take time to get there, though. Someone once told me that I wouldn't be able to make gravy properly until I was a mother (a mild joke, of course, not meant to put down anyone who is not a mother, by choice or otherwise). That stuck with me for a long time, and in my case, it was true. The first time I successfully made gravy was on my son's second Thanksgiving, which also happened to be my 28th birthday, when I'd been a mother for exactly 14 months.  Maybe wisdom is like gravy-making: a skill I have to work up to. I have a long way to go, but I'm trying.

50 comments:

  1. A lovely Sunday read with a prayer I did not know. Jo x

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  2. I know just how you feel. It takes so much practice not to worry about things you can't change. Still a long way to go in this household! Hope you've had a good weekend. x

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  3. I'm with you on the worry front, I'm often laid awake in bed worrying over things I know I can't change. We could all learn something from that prayer.

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  4. Oh I am such a worrier too! And I know that we can't change some things but gosh I worry about them all the same. I've come across that prayer before, perhaps on a greetings card, but like all the best sayings/proverbs/prayers, there is so much truth in them that you see why they hold so much meaning for so many. I hope you are finding the serenity, courage and wisdom you need, my friend. x

    ps more AMAZING blossom photos!

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  5. Jennifer, you have beautifully expressed a conflict that many sensitive people live with. To "accept what cannot be changed" is the direct opposite of "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice." I don't think there's a way to resolve that to the satisfaction of people like you and me, unless the situation is permanently decided for us.
    The lovely things in your life that you've enumerated are all blessings that you've earned and you are right to be proud of them!

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  6. Hey Jennifer,

    Linda's post gave me much to reflect upon too. You have expressed how I often feel so beautifully. I bstruggle with invasive thoughts, especially if the black dog is at my heel. This wonderful blogging community that I share with you helps to remedy some of those dark thoughts and fears. You write with honesty and intergrity. And maybe it wasn't appropriate here, but you also have a wonderful sense of humour. Take care of yourself Jennifer.

    Leanne xx

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  7. Such a thoughtful post Jennifer ! Take life as it comes, you are blessed and surrounded by a wonderful family! Don't forget that, just look at the face of your kids and you will understand what happiness really means.
    Many hugs from me, Olympia

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  8. You are touching my heart with this post Jennifer, thank you! Cx

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  9. Take one day at a time. You are surrounded by love of family and this is the most important. Your have a lovely Spring Garden that would make me smile every minute of the day. Hugs to you Judy

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  10. Beautiful post today with much to think about within. I don't consider myself "religious" either, although those who know me might not agree. However, I do have a strong faith in God as my creator who knows me inside and out. So, when I have those days when I can't shut off the worry, for a worrier I am. I turn to Him. And it works. Really it does. Thank you for your words today.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  11. A lovely post Jennifer. It is so very hard not to worry and be anxious about things, I know. But the serenity prayer is a good mantra. It's something I will carry with me into this week. I hope you have a good week. CJ xx

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  12. What a thought provoking post, J! I think my worry quotient is pretty average.. I worry about stuff and you know when I do my best worry busting? While I swim. It's amazing. Love your photos.. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  13. When Alexandra was two years old and diagnosed with kidney disease I officially became a Worrier. For a long time it consumed me. As I look back over the past twenty years since that diagnosis I have to admit that I do still worry, but along the way something happened. I slowly learned to put my worries about her into a box of their own so they didn't permeate everything else in my life. When she has a flare-up of her disease, or a new health crisis hits, I have to work very hard to shove it all back in the box. Sometimes it takes months. But that's better than years, which is what it used to be.

    I think the key thing here is to be easy on yourself. Getting Worries under control isn't quick, it isn't easy, and it isn't permanent. Good friends, and you are so lucky to have a husband who is in that category, are your biggest allies when it comes to fighting fear. Laughter is a surprisingly great help as well. Hugs to you, Jennifer.

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  14. Lovely pictures Jennifer and I love that prayer it has helped me on many occasions. :)

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  15. Oh Jennifer, I too need to work on so much. I worry quite a bit. -My husband tells me to just take things slow. I'm normally a happy, carefree kind of person..but I do sometimes let that part take over. I've been working on it. -I've gotten better. I hope that this upcoming week you find more serenity, and are able to find that peaceful place. -Laugh, smile, just be in the moment. Have a beautiful week.

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  16. You touched on so many things and expressed yourself so beautifully that I just want to reach through the screen and give you a hug! There have been so many moments in my life where I have thought about this prayer...it means a lot to me as well as I tend to think a bit too much and need to let things go. I find that blogging has been an extremely wonderful piece to my life as I really do find beauty in all of the little things that so many of us blog about. It makes life sweet ...as in your pictures above...they each tell a story to me that is rich and poetic. And I had a little chuckle at the gravy...as I have noticed that mine has gotten better with time as well. Maybe it is practice or maybe it is truly finally feeling the process after becoming a mom that makes it good. Whatever the reason we are blessed! Thank you for sharing friend and all the best to you this week! Nicole xoxo

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  17. I think we all worry at times for one reason or another. It's only natural. The trick is not to let it control you. I like the serenity prayer. There are many truths there. I also like this saying which I think you'll find helpful too, "Count your blessings". I've had to rely on this saying many times during difficult situations. Also if I may say Jen, religion doesn't do anything for anybody. It's a personal relationship with Jesus that matters. Talk to him. He'll listen.
    Hugs,
    Beca

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  18. That was a beautiful and deep post, which I have enjoyed reading, thanks for sharing!

    Lluisa

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  19. I'm a born worrier, & this past week has certainly been a trier! I'd forgotten about the Serenity prayer & I will be repeating it often over the next few days, a lovely post.

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  20. Beautifully written, Jennifer. I know the Serenity prayer and it is very powerful. When I got cancer someone gave me The Miracle Prayer and I find it extremely powerful too. Only since my cancer experience have I learnt to let go of the things I used to store up and worry over. Now it really is enjoy each day to the fullest, and don't sweat the small stuff. Your photos, as always, are lovely. xx

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  21. Lovely pics and very interesting reflection, Jennifer. Hugs :D

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  22. Beautiful open-hearted post Jennifer - and I do believe the serenity prayer is also used by Alcoholic Anonymous groups worldwide - but I have been known to be wrong so I may be corrected on this! Joy x

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  23. The best things come to he who waits! xx

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  24. This post really resonates with me Jennifer as I am just in the midst of typing up a post about balance. For someone who is a natural worrier or suffers from levels of anxiety, life can be a little challenging at times. Having a mantra to start the day is such a beautiful way to begin and one that is grounding and also spiritual. I am with you, grew up in a very religious environment and practiced it for myself for many years, but since the age of around 24 I have become a little more cynical and tend to feel the need to challenge certain aspects of religion. I am however a very spiritual person and one in need of a strong spiritual presence in my life and matras work really well for me. You might enjoy some of Deepak chopra's work, worth looking into. I also think that meditation plays a significant part in grounding us and especially good for quieting the mind. I am sure you will find your balance and I am pleased that blogging is a good support for you. Appreciating the simple things in life is so important and you are clearly blessed to have found your soul mate and best friend to share this journey with you, how very lucky you are. Sending you much love and healing light xoxo

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  25. This is such a beautiful and very thought-provoking post, Jennifer. I am not a "traditional religious" person. I feel there is something bigger than me and that is "what" I pray to each day. I ask for strength each day to be a good person; one who treats people the way I hope they will treat me. I worry a lot and allow fear to stand in the way of so many of life's joys. A few years ago, when life "sucker-punched" me a good one, I turned to "The Power of Now," by Eckhart Tolle. I bought the cds & the book. I listened to the cds at night, read the book during the day and wrote in my journal a lot. Tolle's words helped me so much then, and I continue to listen to those cds when I'm struggling. Thank you for sharing "The Serenity Prayer." They are such powerful words, if we allow them to be so.

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  26. Hi Jennifer...
    Just met your 3chicks....so cute!
    A wonderful experience for the small bears ♥️
    Love this post.....I think you are further ahead than you give yourself credit for....
    Enjoy your week
    Cheers!
    Linda :o)

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  27. A lovely post and beautiful photographs again Jennifer. I hope whatever is worrying you stops soon!

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  28. Jennifer,
    Beautiful post, with such insight and clarity. Many years ago my oldest daughter gave me a glorious and lovely Cross with the serenity prayer beautifully written on it. Not only has my Faith sustained me throughout cancer, loss of a sister and parents and all of the worries of daily life, so has this prayer.

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  29. A beautiful post Jennifer. :) My recent illness gave me the opportunity to slow down and to take notice of all the ordinary things in life that are in actual fact, the most important. (I'm much recovered now). There are blessings where you least expect it aren't there?
    I came here today to tell you that you're the winner of the Red Cat painting in my giveaway. I must also tell you that picture of the colourful yarn is so scrummy!
    Jess x x

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  30. Oh and I forgot to say, could you send me your address please so that I can send your painting to you? My email is jessicastride@hotmail.co.uk
    Thankyou! xx

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  31. I just love that poem Jennifer, it's always meant a lot to me. I enjoyed this very thought-provoking post and thank you for writing just how you feel. Stunning photos too.
    Patricia x

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    1. That should have been - love that prayer, sorry xx

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  32. What a beautifully heartfelt post.
    Through your blog I have come to know you as a wonderful woman full of grace, wisdom and good character ~ a wonderful example for your children as well.
    I say that with all sincerity,
    Willow

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  33. Beautiful photos and insightful, deep words. I think us women in general are pretty darn good at worrying. We know it doesn't do any good, so why do we keep doing it? Two things that really help me when I get in those moods are yoga/meditation and prayer.

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  34. I grew up Catholic and almost went to a Jesuit school, but got a better scholarship to the big state school in my state :) I love all the flower photos, very pretty! I am so ready for spring, but we are supposed to have another snow storm this week. I am so over winter!

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  35. Seems your setting some good qualites for your kids to follower x

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  36. Hi Jennifer,

    Great post and you have written so beautifully. Life is a big challenge sometimes raising a family and the serenity prayer is one I have often thought about. I love your pretty photos the blossom and your wool.
    Also how sweet the little chicks are and your children must be loving them.
    Happy week and sending hugs
    Carolyn

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  37. A very thought provoking post Jennifer, I don't think you give yourself enough credit. I also think your gorgeous photos show how much you appreciate day to day loveliness and we all have worries but it is better to try and live in the moment. Julie x

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  38. A beautifully written post, Jennifer. It was great to learn a little more about you through your connection today to this most meaningful prayer, and how you are relating to it in your life at present. Prayer, whether a memorized verse or my own spontaneous words, has given me the power of peace and serenity in my own life, and especially through difficult times. The blossoms in your photos are sweet and an open invitation to spring, which will hopefully arrive on time!

    Wishing you a lovely day!

    Poppy

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  39. Ah sweet Jennifer. You and I are much more alike than you think. I am not particularly religious in a church sense, but I am very spiritual and feel that has helped guide my life. My husband is not, and that has been a big issue between us, and how to raise our children. He is a man with a larger than life personality and it sometimes overshadows what I think is right or worthy with my kids.

    I love how honest you are. I try to be to, often alluding to things but not getting very descriptive. My son is blessed or cursed with high anxiety levels. It is a blessing as he is sensitive and loving, caring about those who are struggling, but it is hard as he struggles so much, too. Living with him has taught me so much, on how to handle things ( and I am not always good with that).

    I am glad you find peace in that prayer. I think meditation would be so great for you. Something I try to practice, but with a busy daily life it is hard sometimes. You don't need to take a course, just close your eyes and repeat something over and over in your mind that means something to you. Maybe the word, peace, or love, or grace. Take nice deep breaths while you do it. Even five minutes a day would help.

    If you ever need anything, I am here.
    Meredith

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  40. Just catching up Jennifer. The serenity prayer was my late brother's favourite prayer and he carried it on a little card everywhere with him. He even has a little angel carrying a plaque with the prayer on it on his grave. Wise words.

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  41. Lovelt photo's and a great post, liveing with a chronic illness has taught me one good thing, never worry about things you can't control, which has really helped me.
    Clare xx

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  42. Sometimes I have the worst time typing about matters of faith, because I am so fearful of being misunderstood or labeled incorrectly. I consider myself a Christ follower, who has a growing personal relationship with the Heavenly Father as I am empowered by the Holy Spirit. Two younger than me girlfriends from Saugerties, NY, made me a framed copy of the complete Serenity Prayer which I have on the wall beside me as I type to you :) Would you like to know more about that part of my story, Jennifer? If so, please email me and we can type more back and forth. xx

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  43. I have a nearly finished cross-stitching of the Serenity Prayer somewhere around here. :) I was not raised in a particularly religious family. My parents sent me off on a bus to Sunday School and Vacation Bible School when I was in elementary school. I explored many faiths as a teenager and went to many different churches/denominations. My husband is Muslim. He finds great peace in his religion and that's great. I find that as with everything, there's good points and bad points. Everyone believes their way is the right way, but I believe that being patient, tolerant and kind, helping others, having empathy and compassion and living with gratitude is the best way to live each and every day. I am a spiritual being in that sense but I do not feel the need to give a name to what I believe. Your second to last paragraph is the most telling of how you live a blessed life with gratitude and appreciation. That to me is what is important. There's a quote -- worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but gets you nowhere. Of course, I said that to someone else and they did say that the rocking would be soothing, which is another way of looking at it. :) So much that we dwell on really isn't so important. We certainly can't control the actions of others or even have expectations of them because we will likely almost always be disappointed. My motto is one day at a time. Do your best that day. Always be kind, spread joy, give back. Let go! The rest will take care of itself. Hugs and blessings, Tammy

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  44. Lovely post, and I love that prayer.

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  45. I kept meaning to come and read this post when I got the chance. It's inspiring and true. I'm a terrible worrier, prone to anxiety at times. I somehow cope when things get rough but that doesn't mean it's fun to lie awake with a racing mind.
    Thank you!
    Sarah.

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  46. Like Sarah above I kept meaning to come back to this.

    I have always appreciated the Serenity Prayer and I'm not religious at all. As you say it's a kind of mantra.

    I sometimes suffered with anxiety when younger and after it was pointed out to me that it was cyclical my doctor realised it was hormone related and we sorted it easily. Could that be a factor for you do you think?

    Wishing you a stress free week x

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  47. A lovely, thoughtful and very honest post, Jennifer. Though not naturally an anxious person, I too worry about my children and others I love, but age has taught me finally that too much worry is totally counterproductive and I've finally learned to let most of it go and like you, concentrate on what I can change and achieve. Prayer helps in then letting go as we hand over our worries to God or whatever higher power you believe in.

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  48. What a powerful post... Your words really touched my heart today. I feel that we all worry about things and about other people at different levels in different times of our lives. I have a tendency to worry more than not and right now both my children are the focus of my worries as they are teenagers. I worry about raising them to be honest and good people, I worry about their safety, I worry, I worry... But the one thing I have certain in my heart as you well said in the serenity prayer ... If I accept what I cannot change
    , but make an effort to change what I can then I feel peaceful that I'm doing my part ...I'm doing all I can ... And I rest my worries in God's hands and try to live my life without fear.
    Thanks for such a honest, heartfelt post dear J.

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