“It is certainly true that, when you accept your resentment, moodiness, anger, and so on, you are no longer forced to act them out blindly, and you are less likely to project them onto others. But I wonder if you are not deceiving yourself. When you have been practicing acceptance for a while, as you have, there comes a point when you need to go on to the next stage, where those negative emotions are not created anymore. If you don’t, your ‘acceptance’ just becomes a mental label that allows your ego to continue to indulge in unhappiness and so strengthen your separation from other people, your surroundings, your here and now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Welcome to . . . Holland?!?
When my younger daughter was 6, she had a stroke. At age eight, while the doctors were still trying to decide what was wrong, she had another one, bigger and badder, that left her with a number of deficits to overcome. She had to relearn how to walk, how to talk, and how to use her left hand instead of her right. As you can imagine, this was a devastating blow to her and to our family.
During that difficult time, my wife read an article about raising a child with a disability. It helped us put things in perspective. Here is an excerpt of the article. It’s called “Welcome to Holland”.
“I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this: When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guidebooks and make your wonderful plans. . . It’s all very exciting.
“After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, ‘Welcome to Holland.’ ‘Holland?!’ you say. ‘What do you mean, Holland? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.’ . . . So you must go out and buy a new guidebook. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. . . It’s just a different place. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around, and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills, Holland has tulips, Holland even has Rembrandts.
“The pain of [missing Italy] will never, ever, go away, because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss. But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things about Holland.” [Kingsley]
Our family ended up in Holland, not Italy. When we accepted that fact, we were able to begin moving toward a new normal.
Accepting What Is
Before you can change any situation, you must accept what is, not fight against it. Anything you struggle against grows stronger. As the saying goes, “Don’t wrestle with a pig. You’ll both get dirty and the pig loves it.”
Acceptance doesn’t mean you condone or approve a thing. It doesn’t mean you surrender, or give up or give in. It does mean you take things as they are, not as you wish they would be or think they should be.
Acceptance may take some time. If you have a major event to deal with – the death of a loved one, a debilitating disease, the loss of a job, or of a love – you feel some strong emotions. Accept these as well. Express them in healthy ways. Then move on.
‘[T]here comes a point,” says Eckhart Tolle, “when you need to go on to the next stage, where those negative emotions are not created anymore.”
Moving Past Acceptance
Accepting the current reality is often the first step in making a change and moving ahead. But it is only one step. It is not the final result. Don’t get stuck at this level, using acceptance as a “mental label” to help yourself feel OK about not moving forward.
Accept what is (for example, you’re in Holland, not Italy) but then move forward to the next step, whatever that is for you.
Take The Next Step
You may be dealing with a crisis right now. If you are, hold that experience in your head. If you are not, imagine that you are faced with a deeply painful event, such as the death of a loved one. It will hurt, but make it as real as you can.
Then with your real or imagined crisis in mind, consider these options. Will one or more of them aid you in accepting the current situation and then taking the next step?
– Listen deeply and with empathy.
– Suspend judgment / do not judge.
– Detach from things.
– Detach from outcomes.
– Love for real.
– See the big picture.
– Develop a long time perspective.
– Fear not! -> trust the higher power (Spirit).
– Feel the fear and do it anyway.
– Feel the grief and do it anyway.
– Be present and be available.
– Go small -> handle the details.
Suppose, for example, that your son or daughter has overdosed on opioids. The crisis has passed and you have accepted the fact that your child is an addict. What do you do now?
Can you suspend judgement or, better, refrain from judging? Isn’t this part of acceptance? How does that look for you?
Can you detach from outcomes and accept and love your child for real, without requiring them to become better or different?
Will you let go of fear, trusting the higher power? Or feel the fear and feel the grief, letting them have full expression and then moving away?
Will you be really present and available for your child?
As you visualize this and other crisis situations, think of ways you could accept and then move ahead. Now, consider actual events where you may be stuck at the acceptance step. How could you use some of the things you’ve thought of to help yourself get moving?
1. Think about 1 thing you are struggling against, big or small.
2. Decide, right now, that you accept the situation, just as it is – not how you wish it were or how it “should” be.
3. Consider the law of cause and effect. You may have had no control over the original cause that led to the result you are dealing with. Decide on the result you want and begin setting the actions into play that lead to your desired outcome.
4. Take the first small step toward putting the new cause into action.
When Will You Pay?
True acceptance is hard. Changing and moving forward is harder. But you know what the hardest thing of all is? Staying stuck where you are. There once was an advertisement for car maintenance with the catch phrase: “Pay me now or pay me later.” It meant you can pay a relatively small amount for maintenance now or pay a much greater amount for repairs later.
When will you pay? You can pay the price of doing the hard work of accepting, then moving on. Or you can pay the higher price of doing nothing, of using “acceptance” as an excuse to stay stuck where you are. Either way, you’re going to pay. Why not choose the cost that leads to peace of mind and growth? That is embracing the Excelerated Life!
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Identifying and accepting the things you are struggling with is one step in creating your Excelerated Life, a life of flourishing, of well-being, meaning, and purpose.
Kingsley, Emily Perl. “Welcome To Holland.” Child-Autism-Parent-Cafe.com. About ASD Concepts, LLC, May 4, 2015. Sept. 3, 2018. <http://www.child-autism-parent-cafe.com/welcome-to-holland.html>