The Zen List

The never-ending difficulty with real life is that it continues to be itself without my approval. This is also the thing that makes it worth living (this is not a lesson that came easily for me). I am a worrier. It's in my nature--and by that, I mean it is a biological reality that I have anxiety (sometimes about nothing) and that my anxiety is often effected by outside triggers. This, by the way, is called living. 

What I've done is developed the following little reminder for myself, based loosely on the serenity prayer: 

Put it on the Zen List. 

Putting something on the Zen List is a two-fold practice: it is to acknowledge my own lack of control as well as focus on the areas that I do have some control over. The first step is always surrender; the second step is always agency, and the third is surrender (again). 

Let's say (for example) that I get sick with a severe cold. I cannot stop having that cold instantaneously. I can't make it un-happen. Therefore, allowing myself to get stressed out over lost work time is a waste of energy. It's not that my emotional reaction is invalid; it's that its un-helpful. Acknowledging that it doesn't help me to think about how much I'm not doing is the first step to thinking about something else. When I find one of those things I can't make different, I do my best to give it to God (acknowledging his control) and put it on the Zen List (acknowledging my lack of control). Then, I take a second look at the cold: I can use essential oils and drink juice to speed up my recovery. Doing these things is exciting - the problem is being fixed. However, once I've done these things, I need to go back and re-commit my emotional resolve to the Zen List. 

There are a lot of things that I've permanently put on my Zen List, including: 

1. The TSA
2. Student loans
3. The amount of homework I have in any given week
4. My acceptances and rejections (for parts in plays, publication, etc)

The Zen List is not my way of giving up; it's my way of avoiding beating my head against the wall over things that aren't going to change. Learning the difference has been the defining moment between being constantly under pressure and feeling like there is always something I can do about it. The Zen List's magical side effect is that it makes it clear when there is something I can do. I can't wish away the TSA (and I wouldn't), but I can read all posted signs and placards in detail. I don't know if I would be so attentive to the rules if I emotionally wanted them to disappear.

Today, I'll pray, and I'll put [it] on the Zen List.