What if I told you that losing your inner peace is not only an emergency, it’s the only emergency? I know we ladies tend to get wrapped up in the issues of everyone around us, and sometimes the things going on in our lives really do feel urgent. Let me assure you, they are not. They may require your attention, they may be upsetting, and you may have every right to be upset, but whatever it is, it’s not as urgent as finding and maintaining your serenity.
A laser focus on feeling good inside yourself – good about yourself, good with yourself, calm and content with who you are and how you are behaving – is the answer to every difficult situation. I realize that sounds like a tall order but hear me out. As they say, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. When we’re good with ourselves, good with our decisions and good with our behavior, we might still have pain, but we won’t be suffering. Take the following example.
If there were an Olympic game for button pushing, my step-son when he was younger, would have won the Gold, blindfolded with both hands behind his back. But only because at the point in time, I laid my buttons down directly under his feet. He had a way of passing his own (well-deserved) rage off so that he didn’t feel the discomfort himself, and I was a walking receptacle, acting out all the emotion for everyone in the household. I’d be about to blow having gotten everyone mad at me, and this child would be standing by whistling Dixie.
Several years ago, on this one night in particular, my step son sauntered passed me with a plate of food and sat on the couch, knowing full well that I didn’t want him eating on the couch. In fact, we had had a big blow out about it earlier in the week. I could feel the rage gathering in my gut. I knew I was going to lose it the way I knew I was going to stuff my face with chocolate and peanut butter after dinner; it was inevitable. Fortunately, I remembered what a very wise woman had once told me: The only emergency is my serenity.
If my serenity is the only emergency then that meant potential stains on the couch or being disrespected in that moment, were not of immediate concern. I needn’t open my mouth or do anything at all until all true urgent matters were under control.
I went to my room and closed the door. How would I get my serenity back? It seemed near impossible. My husband was there as well and of course, registered exactly nothing – forgetting the conversation we had had about not eating on the couch, and didn’t notice any of what had happened.
I felt hung out to dry. To not enforce the rule I had set would give the idea that my stepson’s behavior was okay. He would win. I began to justify in my head all the reasons I had a right to make him get up off the couch or put his food in the kitchen. Incidentally, I had done this numerous times in the state I was in, and it never ended well.
I thought about calling another family meeting, make sure that everyone knew I meant business, that I couldn’t be disregarded. The more I ruminated, the more worked into a lather I had myself, the further away I got from peace. I forced myself back to thinking about my serenity.
With that as the only emergency, decisions became clearer. My only goal was to figure out what I needed to find my happy place, so I asked myself some questions. What would make me feel most serene at this juncture? Should I go out into the living room and find the kids watching TV and eating on the couch? Maybe have a family meeting? Could I keep my serenity if I did that? No, not at that moment I couldn’t have. Therefore, now was not the time to do that or to have that discussion.
Should I go into the kitchen and start banging dishes around passive-aggressively making dinner because I was pissed my husband didn’t have my back in the situation? Perhaps I should whisper to him at some opportune time how he wasn’t going to get any action tonight. I could “teach him a lesson” so to speak? No, that would not make me serene either. (Note: It might, give me a jolt of self-righteous goodness, but that is very different than serenity).
In fact, in this specific example, I was so worked up that the only thing I could do to find serenity was to either go off for a drive or to spend some quiet time in my room writing, meditating (quieting my mind) or talking to a friend (constructively, not bitching). Eventually I might need to set a boundary, but not in that moment. In that moment, the emergency was my serenity because I had lost it.
Think about that for a moment. Granted there are broken bones and such that perhaps take precedence (although one could argue that if you take a moment to center yourself, you will deal with any catastrophe including life-threatening ones better), but what would it be like if you put your own peace of mind first in every situation?
I will tell you, it’s extremely clarifying, and it reaps untold rewards. Setting boundaries or having family meetings is not best done when your off kilter. Nothing is called for when your hair is on fire except a fire extinguisher.
As I forced myself to focus on the emergency at hand and not where my ego would have me wander, something interesting happened. All of my feelings and fears about what would happen if I didn’t put my foot down, that I was being disrespected, or if the kids or my husband were mad at me or if I was being a good person or a bad person, fell completely away. It didn’t matter what anyone thought. The endless diatribe inside my head of what a good parent or step parent should/shouldn’t do evaporated. The ego bruising of a fourteen-year-old “winning,” became totally irrelevant. All that mattered was that I was centered and at peace.
This has the added benefit of forcing others to embody their own emotions by the way. My stepson, who knew full well I didn’t want food in the living room, whether consciously or unconsciously – brought food into the living room in order to express his (again well-deserved) hatred of me, which he wasn’t allowed to do directly. With me not storming around carrying all the anger, the anger had to go back into the body from whence it came.
However, while that is a large secondary gain, the first benefit for which there is no price is feeling whole and at peace. It is being connected to yourself, your inner voice. When you’re connected in this way, decisions are effortless because you know very clearly what is going to be best for you and as I’ve said before, when you take care of yourself, you’re in a position to take care of others.
When you’re reactive or making decisions in order to try to control other people or circumstances, you are off kilter and it becomes confusing. You begin to ask yourself if this or that is “right.” You wonder if you’re seeing things accurately, if you’re over-reacting or under-reacting, how other people would think of you if they knew, whether or not people will be mad if you say something. This all creates further confusion.
With my serenity intact, I was able to determine how important this food in the living room issue was to begin with, which for me, I decided, wasn’t. I don’t have expensive furniture and there is nothing that can’t be cleaned anyway. Why was I treating it as a class A catastrophe? It was the issue of being disrespected that had me going, and that was a larger discussion I needed to have with my husband at another time when waters were calmer (meaning me).
I credit learning this skill with the repair of my relationship with my stepson as well as greatly decreasing the drama in my life in general. My own emotional dysregulation can cause me to judge and criticize others, as well as create insecurity about what other people think. When that happens, relationships don’t go well. More importantly, I start to feel bad about myself and that, perhaps more than anything, takes me away from my serenity.
You will fall off the bandwagon; we all do, but do your best to identify when you’ve stepped away from your inner calm, and treat it like the emergency it is before you do or say something you’ll regret.
- Your serenity is the only emergency, ever.
- If you’re angry at another, anxious about a potential confrontation or if worried about someone else’s feelings or behaviors, you’re not serene.
- Take responsibility for calming yourself down before doing anything else.
- Before flying off on a rant or having that anxiety attack, recognize that you’ve lost your serenity and it’s your job to find it, immediately. Otherwise you’re giving it away to a force that is completely out of your control.