There’s a word I use often in my posts, and I want to take the time here to explain what I mean by it. That word is “acceptance”.
Acceptance is not resignation or apathy. It is not an excuse to let bad things happen to you or to let people walk all over you. It especially does not mean that you don’t stretch yourself or do the work.
It does mean that when you conditions are out of your control, the first step you take before anything else is acceptance.
I actually have talked a lot about acceptance on this blog but have talked about it in the context of it’s bitter, fraternal twin, resistance, otherwise known as an opposition to conditions.
Think of the adage, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s a lot like that.
We want so much to be in control. We think if things are just a certain way, then it will minimize our discomfort or how much we have to stretch ourselves to get what we really want. When we lose that control, we can either resist or accept.
When I bump up against resistance, I spend extra time on the first line of that adage and work one what I need to accept. I ask myself, How am I working with each part of this? Where am I getting stuck? Where am I falling into old habit patterns? I fail, learn, and fail better.
The practice started with insomnia, waking up at 2 or 3 or 4 am with my thoughts racing. It feels like a current of electricity is pulsing through my brain and I’m fumbling in the dark to switch it off.
A half an hour goes by and then an hour. I’m aware of the sleep that I’m losing and how close it is to my alarm going off. The current of electricity pulses faster, and I fight it, which doesn’t make it slow down.
After spending many nights like this, I’ve learned that resistance is futile. I don’t fight it anymore. When my sleep is interrupted, it can’t be undone. Even though I want to sleep through the night, sometimes it doesn’t happen. The next day I’ll feel like someone is cutting open my skull with a razor blade, and no amount of coffee can change that.
So what do I do? I accept the conditions that I have: a brain that won’t shut off. I avoid things that keep my brain awake, screens and looking at the time. I can’t change the fact that it woke me up, but I can control how I react to it. For a while I tried body scan meditation, and when that stopped working, I turned to reading in bed. Mindful breathing always helps. Both of these things get me away from my thoughts.
I’ve written about how this happens when you have a bad writing day. You’ve been there. You know what it’s like. It feels so much like pulling teeth that you’d rather have teeth pulled than sit down to write that day.
You sit down to write, and the words. Don’t. Come. You think you’re a failure and a fraud. You actually consider giving up, like maybe this is the day that you quit being a writer, and you only write a hundred words and they are the worst one hundred words that anyone has written anywhere at anytime in human history.
I apply the mindset after a night of insomnia. The following day is always awful, and no kidding, I feel as if someone is cutting open my skull with a razor blade. I tell myself, “This is the kind of day I’m having.” I accept that these are the conditions I have to work with, and I work with them as best I can. I take it one step at a time, and I am really gentle on myself.
I do the exact same things on those writing days. I tell myself, “This is the kind of day I’m having.” I accept that these are the conditions I have to work with, and I work with them as best I can.
It’s a waste of time to resist things you cannot change and to avoid changing the things you can. What will make or break you is having the serenity, courage, and wisdom to accept and change the things you can.