What Is Acceptance, Really?

Never-ending.

That’s what it seems like to me. Acceptance is never-ending.  Change is constant. Every time there is change, there is either acceptance or denial. Denial, as if there is a remote chance we can undo change and put things as they once were. When I think of it that way, acceptance makes so much more sense.

There are a lot of things I’ve come to realize acceptance is not. It’s not giving up. It’s quite the opposite to me. Acceptance says I see what’s happening realistically, now I’m going to take action. It means I understand what’s possible; what’s realistic, and what’s not; what’s unrealistic. And with those two pieces of information, I can do a lot.

That’s not to say I can fix my body. But, if I understand my body’s limitations, realistically, if I can accept them, I can start to live again. I can begin looking for realistic ways to live my life.

A big part of acceptance is letting go.  I can’t see my life realistically if I’m still in denial – trying to go back to the way my life was yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that, or a year ago, or for gosh sakes when I was a kid playing on my street! Most of us have let go of the idea of hopping on roller-skates or jumping on a skateboard and heading down to our friend’s house at the end of the street. So why can’t I accept other things that have passed out of my life, like some of my abilities?

Perhaps it is time. Letting go of my childhood is a bit easier today than letting go of the more recent changes in my life. Whatever situations happened just yesterday, be they happy, sad or angry, they’re still close at hand. Whatever the event, the feelings, the context, my personal views, even where it happened seems very real and present. My childhood days, however, have been labeled historic. They are real, but they have lost their present feel.

Time is the great arbiter. This is true for acceptance and denial as well, except it is still a continuum. I often move from denial toward acceptance, hit acceptance, and then fly by it into denial again. Acceptance is as small as a pin head and it’s easy to move outside its boundaries.

To illustrate, reasonable (meaning not evil) individuals in high government positions are often critiqued harshly during their terms. We rarely consider all the pressures and behind-the-scenes issues they face. We judge them often based on whether they are meeting our personal needs without consideration for all the other needs they must consider beyond our own.

When these same people leave office, and as time passes, their legacies tend to be more fondly remembered. At some point, a fairly accurate picture of what they faced and how they came to their decisions is put forth. This is the pin head, the reality.

However, as time continues to progress, society begins to set aside any and all negative aspects of their political efforts. They are placed on a pedestal (consider Abe Lincoln, George Washington, etc.) until we know nothing of their challenges or mis-steps, only of their altruism and success. When someone well versed in an accurate view of history brings up their less-than-ideal attributes, they risk being scolded or accused of being unpatriotic. We have moved past the head of the pin and into a more altruistic form of denial.

Whether our denial generates an overly negative or positive perception, it is still denial and it comes with consequences. We can all relax a bit, because it is rare we find and stay in true acceptance. Perhaps some monks reach this place of enlightenment, they do, after all, practice daily in this effort — so they have an edge (smiles). But most of us focus on other aspects of our daily lives — our health, work, family, relationships, hobbies, and so on.

If this is true, I’m most often dancing around acceptance, popping in and out of it with the flow of my steps. I have found even things I thought I had come to completely accept, under the proper circumstances, go right back into denial and I just want to act out all over again; throw a fit about them. When I remember true acceptance is a very specific space, very small and everything outside it is a form of denial, I can forgive myself more easily when this happens.

I’m not a saint. Not perfect. Unlikely to ever be so. Though it is hard to find true acceptance and hard to stay there, both the effort and progress are very worthwhile to me.

In more emotional times, in times of grief or great stress, acceptance is more fleeting. I respond to things more strongly and provide them greater emphasis than they realistically deserve. When I’m in such a space, I also move toward re-acting more than responding.

My newest effort to avoid reacting (so I may assess and respond) is to remember all my feelings, whether based in reality (acceptance) or denial, are valid. They are there to serve me, to be tools for me. Perhaps they are not necessary right at the moment, however, they are all a part of me because they can help me. If they don’t seem helpful right in the moment, it is okay to acknowledge them, thank them and love them without putting them in the driver’s seat and letting them take me on the road-trip of a lifetime!

This technique may not move me closer to reality, but it does help me avoid moving farther away from it. That’s just as important to me.

And since time can move me toward acceptance, but too much time can whiz me right past it, time is not the ‘key’ to acceptance. It is a constant effort which I believe has many facets – not the least of which is play or fun.

Play and fun allow me to disengage. It turns out, intensity does not lead me to acceptance either. It seems to come in a relaxed but aware state. So fun allows me to turn down the intensity volume; relaxes me so I can maintain a more reasonable perspective on all things.

Of course, with disability comes a whole new concept of fun. Most of the fun I had before chronic pain and illness was outdoors romping around or engaging in adrenaline junkie behavior. Neither of those suit me today, but that doesn’t imply there is nothing ‘fun’ to do.

It has taken some experimentation to determine what feels ‘fun’ to me with my current mobility options. There is a part of me which still enjoys an adrenaline rush. I have found such opportunities in virtual worlds where I can do things in a more realistic and sovereign way than computer games allow.

And I have come to realize the adrenaline addiction I had was a way to create frenetic energy, My history from a young age was filled with such energy. There was a comfort to it, but I was so driven toward adrenaline producing experiences it prevented me from experiencing the joy of quiet moments and inner contemplation.

So my disability has helped me to let go of the adrenaline compulsion and place it in a healthier context. This has opened the door to other experiences which are both fascinating and enlightening about me, life and the inter-relationships of all things. Sometimes the implications of thinking about these things too long blows my mind — so everything in proportion (smiles).

Perhaps acceptance is about balance; ensuring the proper weight is given to things — not too much, not too little. Of course, this is makes ‘balance’ difficult for me. I am not always sure what things weigh or how to even things out – it too, like acceptance, seems fleeting.

So what can I or anyone else do? Enjoy. Enjoy the effort, laugh at the mistakes, get up, brush off and try again. I can say overtime I have improved, but I am still far from flawless – but so is everyone else. If we can truly accept this premise, can we not be a bit more accepting of each other, in all our faults? Can we not chalk it up to wherever we are on the continuum of whatever?

And if we can do this for others, can we not do it for ourselves, for our pains, for our body’s incapabilities? Can we not value ourselves and others more, just as we are, without any qualifications? Can we not laugh at the error or our ways and see opportunities for improvement, knowing without question seeing such opportunities does not, in an of itself, ensure improvement the next time, or the time after that, but over time improvement will happen.

Finally, this kind of perspective, which also requires practice, opens doors. When I am not so stressed about being perfect or hoping others will see only my ‘good’ side, I am more relaxed and can see a whole new plethora of opportunities before me. Accepting there is no perfection, there are no saints, is a fine start on the path of acceptance. Accepting I will not always forgive my or other’s imperfections up front, that sometimes I may have to journey a bit to get to acceptance is a good start too. If it is all I do, I will have done much.

I often say, “We will never achieve our own expectations of ourselves.” It is true. The only expectations we can achieve are realistic ones. And if we agree acceptance is viewing life in a realistic way, and to do this we must stay within the boundaries of a pin head, that we are mostly outside the boundaries of reality in one way or another, then our expectations are generally unrealistic. If I know this is true, I can forgive myself more easily for not achieving them, yet I am still motivated to try. I may not achieve my expectations, but the only true failure is in making no effort at all.

If we are making any sort of effort at life, however failed and dismal, we are living. I have said in the past I was not sure what I was doing in my younger years, but it was not living. I was wrong.

I was trying to hard to sort out life; I was living more than most people I know. I couldn’t figure most of it out, but I was most assuredly alive, feeling all the aches and pains to my very core. So it was not that I wasn’t living, I was doing the best I could at the time. Today, by some grace and the loving support of many people, I am simply living in a new way, one which feels and fits me better.

This has little or nothing to do with my physical capabilities – that is part of what I have learned. No matter how ‘unable’ I can physically do something, it has no direct link to the true nature of my spirit. And spirit trumps all.

Where there is spirit pumping, flowing, moving, reaching out — there is a dynamic force that can overcome any limitation, whether I or anyone else sees it or not. Acceptance doesn’t say I can do anything I want, it says I can be realistic about what I can do, and in having such a view, I can find some peace, serenity, contentment, happiness. I’m not forcing a square peg in a round hole anymore. There is nothing wrong with the square peg or the round hole, only I understand now the futility of trying to get one to fit into the other.

Over a period of trials and failures, I will, at some point, come to know at my very core square pegs never  fit in round holes. I will accept them both for what they are, neither good or bad, but both different from the other, and each needing to be addressed in their own way.

 

All of this is somewhat esoteric. The hard-core take away is laugh more, worry less – we all move forward, grow and come to understandings at the proper pace. Don’t walk out on an experience too early. Give things time to develop. You qualify for patience and understanding from yourself (and others, whether they give it or not). If you are making an effort, you are doing well regardless of the outcome. It is okay to appreciate who you are and what you can do today, without judgment or a need to quantify or qualify. That’s the good stuff, and if it’s not there now, it will come with practice, with little steps, one after the other.

Like playing the grand piano, it doesn’t happen overnight, or nearly as fast as we would like, but it does happen with time, practice, persistence and patience. The time it takes are well worth it; we are worth it; life is so very worth it. Enjoy the journey!

 

 

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