When I spotted this graphic first thing this morning I was immediately intrigued. It was a gentle illustration of acceptance. It dawned on me that we could all make our own acceptance charts.
You will notice below that I did not put death in my short topic list. This has its own category. Still, I do have big items on the list as well as the ordinary grains of sand in our shoe.
Diagnosis/Divorce /Difficult People/Covid/broken leg/ Rainy holiday? Stolen bike and so on.
- It’s not fair
- I don’t deserve this
- Why me?
- My life is ruined
- I saved forever for the trip and now its cancelled
- This will never end
- I’m angry/furious/lonely/scared/anxious/ – name it
- I want revenge
- She/he didn’t deserve the promotion
- I worked so hard…
And in the second column:
The thing I would add is:
- I don’t like this
- I’m angry/furious/lonely/scared/anxious/ – name it (no such thing as a bad thought or feeling just some we like and some we don’t) and
- What now? What can I do with “Things as they are?”
There is nothing easy about acceptance. It isn’t passivity. We don’t lie down and let the world walk over us. It is absolutely acknowledging the brutal and the less brutal facts of life and refusing the mantel of victimhood. One of the guidelines of Dr. Itami’s Meaningful Life Therapy is to play an active role in your own treatment. Take an interest and be well informed. Find out things that you can do. The bottom line is to take some action rather than simply endure unpleasant circumstances, or any unnecessary suffering that can be changed, or alleviated in some way. Seeking help is in this category.
When we face a challenging and often unexpected crisis, we can lose our fortitude for making the best of it, as the days and weeks wear on. Ennui can take over and our dissatisfaction increases. And as life events change, many of our purposes will be called into question. What matters most at this time? What do we need to let go of and what do we need to begin? As we go through a time of transition, routines can be a source of help to keep us steady, balanced, and strong.
Creating a Purposeful Routine
Each day is a brand-new day – treat it as such.
Get up at the same time – set an alarm.
Make your bed.
There is evidence to suggest that some form of meditation is a helpful way to begin. The important thing is to nourish your spirit. A solitary walk or run or bike ride in nature is always a good option when available. Maybe an inspirational reading or a poem,
Consider choosing three things you want to do this day that you can control. Make sure they are important, and doable. Jot them down and assign times. Remember that the clearer you are on your purposes, the easier it is to keep refocusing your attention while you use your body to take the appropriate action. Also, remember to make time for beauty, music, loved ones and joy. Not all at the same time, but don’t lose sight of what lifts your spirits.
It is not wrong to approach this time with trepidation, nor is it justified to do nothing because we are uncertain. We can learn to actually coexist with the uncertainty and worry, and keep
our eyes peeled, as we cultivate resilience, awareness, strength and adaptability.
I am from the school of hope. This is not based on fluff but on my experience. Where there’s life there’s hope.
We already have plenty of evidence in our lives that we can handle things. We are here now.
So, I want to be a cheer-leader for doing the best we can under the circumstances. I’m not going for peace of mind. When the going is tough, peace of mind is unrealistic. I consider it more hopeful and reasonable to develop a flexible mind, a mind that can adapt to changing circumstances.
I suppose it boils down to handling the tough things with the whole gamut of our humanness: sometimes with grace, imagination, purpose, laughter and kindness — sometimes with resignation, sadness, tears, and despair. It is all ok. We aren’t meant to be perfect and we don’t get to give up either.
Let’s treasure our humanity and the humanity of us all. Take heart. consider that new routine, ritual, daily walk…perhaps getting a way for a couple of days by yourself. Never underestimate the impact on our well-being that even small steps can make. And notice how often small steps lead to significant change.
I want to state a simple truth.
There is always something we can do. Once again. the bottom line when it comes to active acceptance is to acknowledge the situation no matter how difficult, take a pause, and consider some constructive action rather than endure unpleasant circumstances, or unnecessary suffering that can be changed, or alleviated in some way.
And I think that makes all the difference. If it’s raining and the picnic gets cancelled that is an easy, although inconvenient disappointment to deal with. A diagnosis or a divorce is much harder. Yet, still, there are things we can do to help us accept what we do not want to accept and work with the situation at hand. We aren’t trying to like it. We are trying to learn how to co-exist with it, not drown and eventually move on.
This is no easy task.
As Jon Kabat Zinn says so well, in my absolutely favourite definition of the spirit of acceptance I am talking about:
“Acceptance doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination mean passive resignation. Quite the opposite. It takes a huge amount of fortitude and motivation to accept what is – especially when you don’t like it – and then work mindfully as best you possibly can with the circumstances you find yourself in, and with the resources at your disposal, to be in wise relationship to what is, which may mean at some point acting to mitigate, heal, re-direct, or change what can be changed.”
I need to add something important here.
The poet David Whyte describes it well:
“Anyone who has suffered real loss, the loss of a child, a marriage, a well-loved home, has always had difficulty conveying the absolute sense of devastation to those who are at present more fortunate. As if standing on fishes, Rilke described it, as if the ground had a life of its own and were swimming away underneath him. Many of us who take the solidity of the world for granted have had glimpses of what it would be like to have that ground taken away, ” writes David
Please, please remember there is no straight line. We wobble along, this way and that, trying to figure out what to do. For all the words that get written there are no formulas. There are no experts that know exactly what you should do. Nor is there a definitive playbook. However, hand rails and sign posts exist that can offer direction and rest stops along the way. There are our beloved humans who can act as bumper cars to keep us from falling over the cliff. And even if we do wear the victim mantel for awhile do not be mean to yourself, as you will toss it off in your own good time.
We try things and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t as we make our way along. I see the paradox of life and although I try to extend a helping hand in gratitude to all the beautiful helping hands that I have received, it is each of us who gets to figure it out – this crazy, wondrous, privileged, amazing thing we call life. We can all do it!
Note 1:) Tomorrow in Canada is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. You can read more about it here.
Note 2:) I highly recommend this video on what acknowledging and honoring “the land” means. It is beautifully done.
Note 3:) Autumn days are so lovely and I hope you get outside to enjoy them. Thank you for spending these September Wednesdays with me. Next time we meet will be October and just before Canadian Thanksgiving, my favourite holiday. Warmest wishes and the best of good effort and good luck to you all. One foot in front of the other through leaves, over bridges.