I liked this quote from the poet Mary Oliver, who died earlier this month. It's a good question, and one I've been struggling to answer lately. I don't know the answer and I'm spending more and more time trying to figure it out. Ever since I was unconstitutionally fired from a job that I loved and performed to near-perfection for over a decade, I've been on an emotional roller coaster of rage, hope, and uncertainty.
The questions and ruminations keep spinning in a blur like hamsters on a wheel inside my head, and I keep giving myself the “self-care” task of moving on with the serenity prayer on loop: accept the things I cannot change or control; have the courage to change the things I can; and find the wisdom to know the difference. It helps me to divide the first two into categories:
Things I Can’t Control & Therefore Should Ignore
1. What other people think of me.
2. What other people say about me.
3. What people in power do with their power—whether it’s to victimize me or validate me.
4. How other people respond to difficult situations.
5. The content of other people’s character.
Things I Can Control & Therefore Should
1. My basic life habits (eating, sleeping, exercise).
2. Who I allow into my life.
3. How I spend my time.
4. How I expend my energy.
5. How I use my voice.
6. How I respond to threats and fear.
It’s helpful to just list these things for their general application to life and to help me answer Mary Oliver’s question. I don’t know what the answer is. Honestly I’ve been super depressed since early December, and I’ve spent some time since then just wishing I could be in a fentanyl coma and wake up when everything is easier again.
But I know that’s not an option, and that I need to be patient and let the answer to what’s next for me just sort of unfold. Fortunately the things I can control outnumber the things I can’t, at least by my count.
For now, at least, I’m going to try to focus on that.