“You get what you get and don’t be upset.” ~ Emily, 6
Sometimes you find wisdom in the most unexpected places, like your friend’s kindergartener. This quote was innocently uttered by her during a Saturday afternoon visit. I can’t remember who it was directed toward or what we were even talking about, but over a year later and it still strikes me with simplistic sensibility.
Whether you’re talking about your younger sibling getting more marshmallows in their hot chocolate, the fact that you’re stuck in an endless meeting yet all you can think about are the deadlines that seem to be tightening like a noose around your neck or that look on the doctor’s face that tells you, without saying a word, “I wish I had some better news”, acceptance is one of the hardest things to, well, accept.
And just so we’re on the same page, the fact that I’m writing a blog about acceptance with Easter on the horizon… well, the irony isn’t lost on me. Being raised Catholic, I am fully versed in the “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” lesson, but I also know that we tend to lay it on thick to get the point across. Add being raised in a big Italian family into the mix and you can just throw in the mapina (dish towel) before even getting started.
The ability not to be able to accept things has plagued me, as I’m sure it has some of you, for most of my life. We think that by arguing, crying, screaming, and shaking our fists at the heavens things are going to change. How can’t they? Well, I can tell you right now, it won’t make one iota of a difference. The only thing those reactions will do is get you frustrated.
The lesson for me came about six and a half years ago, when I was told, during my regularly scheduled annual checkup, that I needed to be admitted to the emergency room right away for what would be my 4th open heart surgery.
Now I don’t mean to sound full of myself when I say this, but I’m a darn good patient. I go with the flow, I let them take as many blood samples as they need and I accept the fact that breakfast, lunch and dinner is not going to be 5-star.
But after almost a week of waiting, and two delays, I was started to get antsy. Are they going to do this already, or not? So when the doctor walked in at 4:55 that Monday night and told me we’d be going ahead tomorrow (instead of the originally scheduled Wednesday), I responded with “I’m ready… the question is, are YOU ready?” After he left the room I allowed the tears I had been holding back to stream down my face.
Was I scared? Hell yes. Was I nervous and about the outcome? Uh, yeah! Was there anything I could do to change the situation? Nope. Nothing. Nada. Why? Because whatever my reaction was, not matter how upset or angry I got, it was happening anyway.
After taking the sleeping pill the nurse told me would help me get some much-needed rest (not so much) and with my father sitting/sleeping/worrying in a chair beside my bed, I inhaled deeply and accepted the situation for what it was.
Spoiler Alert: Here comes that almighty fork in the road. I chose not to give up. Instead, I got determined… I got focused… and I decided that even though I couldn’t control what lay ahead of me, I was going to do the best I could.
It’s also critical to the story arc that I mention that when I shared with my boyfriend (now my husband) how things were going to go down (I have a fairly good memory and although it had been 21 years since my last surgery, there are some things you always remember), he didn’t bat an eye or leave my side. In fact, when I told him that when (not if) I got out of this, we were going to Philadelphia so I could run up the same stairs Sylvester Stallone had made famous in Rocky.
“Eye of the Tiger” became my theme song that night, a song that played in my head as they wheeled me down to the surgical floor, throughout my recovery in ICU and during the week I spent walking the halls of the 5th floor cardiac wing.
In his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle writes about how “acceptance of what is takes you to a deeper level where your inner state as well as your sense of self no longer depend on the mind’s judgments of ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ When you say ‘yes’ to the ‘isness’ of life, when you accept this moment as it is, you can feel a sense of spaciousness within you that is deeply peaceful.”
Have you ever had moments like that? Where you’re so in harmony with the moment that there’s an inner peace – a feeling of complete contentedness – that comes over you? I have, and it’s nirvana!
That feeling comes when you are, as Tolle says, “fully conscious, yet the mind is not labeling this moment in any way. This state of inner nonresistance opens you to the unconditioned consciousness that is infinitely greater than the human mind. That is why, by letting go of inner resistance, you often find circumstances change for the better.”
In simple terms, once I accepted the situation for what it was, a shift in my thinking took place that allowed me to focus on the outcome – getting better.
And please don’t mistake the purpose and the beauty that is acceptance. Just because you accept that something is happening, doesn’t mean you agree with it. It simply means you’re acknowledging it, without judgment or justification. You’re not labeling it in your mind as bad or good, you’re just recognizing that it is happening. Because, guess what, it is?!
As I write this, I also recognize there are those times when you have to walk away – either a draining conversation or a dangerous situation – and, at that time, it will be the most appropriate response. However there are some cases when walking out is not an option. So that feeling of “I don’t want to be here” is not only useless, but dysfunctional. That negative vibe you’re sending out makes you, and others around you, unhappy. So take a deep breath, accept it for what it is and let it go. Easier said than done, but practice makes perfect!
So you might be wondering about that trip to Philly… I’m happy to share we did hit the road that following Labour Day weekend. In fact, hubby recorded what would later become a mini movie about my ascension up the stairs that lead to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with the accompanying track being “Eye of the Tiger”… as if there was any doubt!
Even today, when I hear that song it brings a smile to my face, because it reminds me of one of the most amazing journeys I’ve ever taken. It reminds me that even though you can’t change the weather, you can still appreciate the rainbow after the storm. And trust me, there is always a rainbow.