I am not an alcoholic. But lately, sometimes, I sure feel like one.
And I’m not talking about drinking.
Life during these days of the pandemic is chaotic. Messy. Complicated. Risky.
My life feels out of my control.
For example — I never know, when I leave my job as a teacher each evening, if my school is going to be closed that night due to the pandemic. Will I see my students tomorrow? Next week? Next month? I don’t know.
Life is also full of uncertainties for my daughter, who is in high school. She asks me all the time - do I think she’ll have a volleyball season this year? Will there be a prom? Will we take school pictures? I don’t know.
I watch the experts on the news each evening as they debate the various ins and outs of the virus. When will we have a vaccine? Are we rushing too fast? Going too slow? Is it safe to go to church? To the movies? To a restaurant? I don’t know.
I think about my parents. They are in their seventies, hunkering down on their rural farm to avoid exposures. Will they come out for a visit next summer? Will they be able to come to my daughter’s high school graduation? Will I have one more chance to hug them and tell them how much they mean to me in person? I don’t know.
There are so many things I don’t know,that sometimes I feel like I can’t stand it. I feel out of control. Overwhelmed by emotions I don’t want to feel. Lost. Rock bottom.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference.” (Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr)
Much like an alcoholic.
But then I remember that those in recovery have a saying. A bit of wisdom to help them deal with the realities of a chaotic, messy, complicated, risky world. A little thing called the Serenity Prayer.
I can’t change the fact that, due to the pandemic, I don’t know what my life is going to look like next week, or next month, or next year. But I CAN choose to live in the moment. Find joy in today.
Ok, so I don’t know how much time I will have to deliver face-to-face instruction to my students. But instead of worrying, I can enjoy each day I have in class teaching. I can share my knowledge, challenge my students to think critically, and feel grateful as I leave each evening for having had that one day.
Ok, so I don’t know if I will get to watch my daughter serve a single volley this year. Or if I will get to help her pick out a prom dress. But we can find other milestones to celebrate. Like turning 16 — or learning how to drive. Or even (gasp) working towards getting her private pilot’s license — because when so much at school has been cancelled, it frees up an awful lot of free time to pursue other endeavors.
Ok, so I don’t know when I’ll next get to see my parents. But I can call them. I can text them. I can peruse my mother’s daily emails over my morning cup of coffee and imagine how beautiful the green, rolling hills are in Missouri as she describes the way each season subtly transforms into another on her farm through her words that flow like poetry.
So I am learning to worry less about the tomorrows, the next weeks, the next years of my life. I am learning to dive deep into the “todays.” To relax — and to enjoy the richness, and the specialness, and the beauty of each moment of now that envelops me.
This is serenity — Letting go. And holding on.