Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Acceptance.

In my last post, I discussed my chronic pain and the inspiration I received for how to cope with it. Part of my new approach includes accepting the fact I have this condition and learning from it instead of focusing all my energy on making it go away.

Honestly? I didn't want to implement this acceptance of my pain. I fought this bit of inspiration hard. "If I accept it, I'm throwing in the towel. And I am NOT a quitter," I thought.

Here's the thing, though -- there's value in knowing when it's time to quit, and this concept goes beyond chronic pain.

Many things in life are simply beyond our control. Among these, for instance, are the actions of others. People are going to say and do things to us every day -- yes, even mean things, stupid things, ignorant things and bad things -- and you and I can't do anything to stop it. We sometimes try, but it's all in vain. The fruitless pursuit of changing a person's actions leaves us feeling defeated, hopeless and bitterly resentful.

But it doesn't have to be this way. Dillon, my wise husband who's been dealt more than his fair share of challenges in life, always says, "You can't control the behavior of others, nor how others react to your choices. But you can ALWAYS choose how you react to theirs."

He truly lives by this principle. In more than 11 years of knowing him, I've seen him turn the other cheek countless times. When necessary, he reproaches others calmly and directly. He doesn't yell, throw a tantrum, manipulate or coerce them to adopt his way of thinking. He is the prime example of one who accepts what he cannot change.

Dill's attitude of acceptance is not one of resignation -- he doesn't just lay down and die when something doesn't go his way. Rather, he chooses to be grateful and optimistic in the face of adversity. He doesn't waste precious time trying to change or control what is fixed. He acknowledges the bad but capitalizes on the good. This way of thinking is something he has learned and developed through the challenges he has encountered. He'll be the first to tell you he didn't always see things this way, but he has learned how.

Some may think this positive-focused mindset lacks integrity, but I disagree. If he were to pretend the negative aspects of life didn't exist, then yes. But Dill's not under some false illusion that bad things don't happen. He creates a healthy space for both disappointment and the gratitude in his life.

Just two weeks ago on April 4, Dillon's grandfather was tragically killed in a bicycle accident. He was 92 years old, but he was as healthy as anyone. He regularly biked 10 - 15 miles a day a few times a week. He'd been cycling for about a decade, brought on by a knee replacement that left him unable to run anymore (did I mention he ran his first marathon at 76 and then another one a year later? Yeah. Also, if this isn't a prime example of acceptance, I don't know what is).

It wasn't as if he died doing something irresponsible or uncharacteristic for him. It was indeed a tragic accident, one we never saw coming.

Dill and his Grandpa Seymour at Grandma Seymour's funeral, February 2012

Of course, Dill was devastated by the news of his grandfather's death. We all were. Death is sad no matter how and when it happens -- painlessly, quickly, doesn't matter. It's not so much the death that hurts as it is the separation from that person, the idea that you won't see them ever again, at least not in this life. It's a painful realization and it stings each and every time you consider it.

This picture was taken the last time we saw Grandpa Seymour, last summer at the cabin which he built many years ago with his family.


The visit at the cabin was just a few days before Grandpa's 92nd birthday, so we had some cupcakes and sang to him. Boy, am I glad we made the trip up there. I actually had a great conversation with Grandpa about my mom. He was always so kind to me, never too busy to ask me how I was doing.

The funeral was on my birthday, April 7 (I'm unfortunately no stranger to death on my birthday). Due to some health issues Clara's had recently, I opted to stay home with her and supported Dill taking the two older kids to California for the services.

After my last post, I got to try out my new, enlightened philosophy of acceptance right away -- accepting the facts that a loved one died close to my birthday, that I would be apart from my husband and kids on that day, and that Clara and I couldn't attend the funeral. This scenario would have previously stressed me out, but I approached it from the standpoint that it was happening no matter what and I could only choose how to react.

My parents helped my twin brother and I have a fun birthday, despite the fact we were both alone for it. We all went to breakfast and dinner together, my mom and I got pedicures, and my dad even bought me some new hubcaps and installed them for me. I taught a piano and voice lesson, and my students were so sweet to bring me treats.

There was still an air of sadness in knowing it was Grandpa's funeral day, and I honored it. I didn't dismiss it or pretend Grandpa hadn't died. I also knew Dill was probably feeling deep sorrow that day, and empathy is important to me. But I permitted myself to enjoy the day, to relax and to spend time with my family. And it was a truly wonderful day. Different from how I had originally planned, but wonderful nonetheless.

To me, acceptance is making room for both disappointment and gratitude simultaneously. It's saying, "I can't change this bad thing that's happened to me," then, allowing yourself to move on. It's acknowledging that, despite your best efforts, things aren't going how you wanted or planned, but pinpointing and highlighting the positives anyway. It's a refusal to impart your energy and time toward anything you can't control.

Acceptance is a mature perspective -- one which, I'm finding out, requires discipline and time to develop. I'm not patient by any means, but I'm trying. As I have been practicing this new mantra for the past two weeks, I have noticed a greater sense of peace and gratitude in my life. I have even seen my chronic pain take a back seat as I am no longer feeding it most of my energy. I am processing my emotions in a healthy, balanced way. I am not letting my disappointments consume me. I am choosing to end each day on a high note.

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