July 14, 2012

Reflections: Emotional housekeeping: What happens is not all up to me


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Tears flood my eyes as I allow myself to sink into my human limitations, to feel my grandsons' human vulnerabilities. I feel the helplessness that Rabbi Harold Kushner describes: Bad things can happen to good people and random events occur in what we wish could be a more ordered and orderly universe.

"Ya, ya," I say to this insight, but feel compelled to finish. At dusk, I rinse my dust cloths, hide the last of the scissors above the cabinets and collapse the step ladder. "What is left to do?" I ask myself.

The answer is that what is left is not a doing. The answer is in being. The answer comes as questions. How can I be with the messiness of this life? How can I be, as Buddhists suggest, without anxiety about imperfection? Can I leave that tiny bit of dirt in the corner, love the twins when they come and let boys be boys?

As I start to slice broccoli for dinner, I remember Reinhold Niebuhr's Serenity Prayer:

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.

As emotional housekeeping, I repeat it. I get it: What happens is not all up to me. Now I can rest. Now I can breathe.

Susan Lebel Young is a retired psychotherapist, teaches mindfulness, yoga and meditation and is the author of "Lessons from a Golfer: A Daughter's Story of Opening the Heart." She can be reached at sly313@aol.com.


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