I sometimes find myself looking for serenity as if it were a moment of grace detached from the here and now. I suspect it happens to most of us. Serenity becomes a way of getting away from problems and finding a little bubble of comfort. A holiday thing.

The problem with this is that holidays end and you find yourself looking for the next holiday. It’s an escapist mindset.

There’s also another way of finding some sort of serenity. It’s not an escape from the uncomfortable. It’s not a holiday. It’s a way of relaxing into the uncomfortable and letting go of control.

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally, I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.

(Mary Oliver - I Worried)

Letting go does not mean resigning to whatever may come or giving up plans and hopes. It simply means letting go of the constant urge to manage and fix things by doing, again and again, the things that didn’t work in the past. Like endlessly banging on a wall because you’re pretty sure there should be a door somewhere. But there isn’t one.

Maybe the way out starts from accepting the wall as a wall and making our life livable within those constraints. Or maybe the wall is not really there. We build it in our head and we keep on projecting it outside.

This is in response to this week’s Lens-Artists Photo Challenge, “Serene”, hosted by Patti. All photos have been taken in the Alfama district of Lisbon, on a sunny morning at the end of November.

19 thoughts on “Serenity

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