Acceptance... Love it or Leave it?
~ Byron Katie
Acceptance is always the path to peace, to love, to grace, to our spiritual and emotional evolution, and to returning home to ourselves. Always. Only a place of acceptance enables us to move toward the solution. Fear, denial, and resistance trap us in the problem. Leaving us forever stuck in the mud, in the despair, and in the frustration. Resistance and fear are blinding, leaving us short-sighted and unable to recognize the beauty that surrounds us. When we let go of our preconceptions of how we believe life should go, and how others should be, we are free to see our life, and the people in it, in all its majesty.
Acceptance, I know, trust me I know, it's a tough one. Fighting the situation, or trying to control others, can give us the illusion that we are in control, that somehow, if we hold on tight enough we can force life to comply with all our brilliant ideas about how everything should unfold.
1) It is, 100%, an illusion. The anxiety we feel around trying to control anything outside of us is created from the subconscious knowledge that we are utterly powerless to change people, places and things... I know, right? Unfortunately the universe did not request my personal input when deciding this...and P.S., it did not request yours either.
2) Take a deep breath... the bad news: you are your problem. But hang in there... the amazing news: you are your solution.
The first step of any 12 step program is to "admit we were powerless over (fill in the blank) and that our lives had become unmanageable." Healing cannot begin until we stare our problem straight in the face, and surrender. Acceptance is our proverbial waving of the white flag. It is the first step in finding our way back to ourselves. It is our first step toward home.
Often, we are powerless over the people, places, and things around us. The challenge? Not obsessing over the facets of our lives we do not control. Focusing on others, and all the stuff out there, is always easier than focusing on ourselves. When we learn to accept ourselves with love and compassion, we are finally free to truly love others.
What does acceptance look like? Let's start with what acceptance does NOT look like and work backwards. Acceptance is not about "wow I'm am so excited this is happening! Wait, ANOTHER opportunity for spiritual and emotional growth? BRING IT ON!" Acceptance does not require our endorsement, or even our agreement. It does require, well, our acceptance, if, and only if we wish to move forward. For me, the best examples of "acceptance in action" involve my husband. My husband is an intensivist; he has been an ICU doc for 25 years. Over these years his colleagues have told me they are blown away by how calm he remains in the midst of chaos surrounding life and death situations. For the majority of our marriage I have heard him on the phone with other docs in the middle of the night when a patient was, well, critical. What I have heard come out of his mouth for all that time, is some version of "yeah okay," followed by instructions on how to proceed. What I have never, ever, heard him say is any version of "no not this." Was my husband happy that a patient was hanging onto life? Of course not. His calm responses reflected his ability to accept the situation, and think, "what's next?" It freed him to move, quickly and calmly, toward the solution.
When we are experiencing emotional pain and suffering we often find that what began the suffering was a resistance to the reality of what was happening. Six years ago I lost my father, and 7 months later my mother. My father had been quite ill, and his passing, while painful, was a blessing. We knew he was finally free. My mother became ill rather quickly. In the midst of the agony of losing her I was acutely aware of the fact that the majority of my suffering stemmed from the idea that I did not agree with what was happening. I was not ready to accept life without her, and there are many days this still holds true, because acceptance is fluid, it comes and goes. I had accepted her impending death, and that acceptance allowed me, and my siblings, to move toward loving her out of this life, toward loving each other during our grief. Acceptance does not shield us from grief, and it's not a switch that when flipped immediately removes our discomfort. Acceptance may not dull our immediate pains, but it enables us to move toward a solution.
Acceptance freed us to lean on each other, and to celebrate and honor her life in a way that would bring her joy. I did my mother's makeup for her funeral. When loved ones asked me how I was able to do this the answer was easy: love, acceptance, and because my mom would have wanted to look beautiful. It mattered to her. Also, it would have cracked her up beyond expression to see me in that situation, and that made me smile, and I really needed to smile. She would have roared. My mom was beautiful and had the kind of lips women are paying a fortune to try and recreate. For as long as I can remember she wore the exact same bright coral lipstick from Revlon (a shade I believe should have been outlawed in the 50's). My mom, and her twin sister, remain the only women I've seen that are capable of pulling it off. Every three months I would visit her, and every time I would buy her a beautiful mauve colored lipstick/lipgloss. She threw them out as soon as I left town, as was evident by the fact that I couldn't find a single one of them as I gathered her makeup to take to the funeral home. I did her makeup they way she loved it... but I did use one of those beautiful mauve lip glosses... because every once in a while resistance works in your favor and you DO get the last word....:-)
Peace & Love Always