White calla lily

A few days ago, a friend reached out to me for help. She was having a hard time after one of those unexpected things life likes to throw at you.

What did you do, she asked me? I used the ostrich method, I wanted to tell her. Don’t think about it, don’t think about it, don’t think about it. It is, I admit, not a suitable method of tackling life. 

Instead, I told her about acceptance. Strive for that kind of calm, peaceful mind that acceptance offers, but that’s so hard to achieve. Realize that life is what it is, and no amount of wishful thinking can make it otherwise. Things change, as much as we don’t want them to; people change, too, and catastrophes happen. Change and pain are constant companions in this world; the best one can do is accept them. Not surrender, but accept it. It is what it is. We spend too much time and energy refusing to accept things as they are and trying to change what we cannot. 

I told her about the Anonymous Alcoholics’ prayer; it’s a short but powerful reminder of how to handle life with everything it brings. (And before AA, the Stoics preached this, even though they didn’t really preach. Hence, my interest in Stoics).

The Serenity Prayer

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.

Yeah. Work in progress.

I realized that I was trying to help her as much as myself.

I try to remember Mark Twain’s words: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” The Stoics (Seneca) said that we suffer twice, once when we think about something that could happen and then again when it happens.

It’s enough to think about the things I was worried about only a few years ago, to say nothing about my youth. Most of them, if any, never happened, of course. Or they weren’t the catastrophes I thought they’d be. Instead, you have unexpected stuff thrown at you. (Think the last four years!)

So now I’m trying to make the best of what I have, which is not negligible; enjoy life because you never know what’ll happen in the future. I shouldn’t mar the lovely life we have right now with thoughts about what might happen. Then, I would have suffered twice.

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